Contrary to recent reports, Hassan Rouhani did not participate in the 1993 Iranian leadership council meeting that authorized the following year’s terrorist attack on the AMIA Buenos Aires Jewish community center building in which 85 people were killed, the Argentinian prosecutor in the case told The Times of Israel on Monday.
Alberto Nisman, who traced the authorization for the July 18, 1994 terrorist attack to a meeting of Iran’s National Security Council held on August 14, 1993, compiled sufficiently compelling evidence of Iran’s role in the crime as to have several leading Iranian figures, including Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi and recent failed presidential candidate Mohsen Rezai, placed on an Interpol “red notice” list.
President-elect Rouhani, as a senior member of the Iranian government in 1993, “was a member of the Islamic Republic of Iran National Security Council, according to witness testimony,” Nisman said Monday. But when that council “carries out extralegal activities,” he went on, it acts as a parallel body “under the name of ‘Committee for Special Operations’ or ‘Omure Vijeh Committee’… The AMIA attack decision was made by the ‘Omure Vijeh Committee’ on August 14, 1993. The conclusion of this prosecution office was that Hassan Rouhani did not participate in that meeting.”
Asked whether his investigations had found any evidence of Rouhani having a role in Iranian-orchestrated terrorism, Nisman replied, “There is no evidence, according to the AMIA case file, of the involvement of Hassan Rouhani in any terrorist attack.”
Rouhani won a surprise victory in Iran’s presidential elections earlier this month.
Nisman, with whom this reporter has been in contact for some years, answered The Times of Israel’s queries Monday via email. He clarified the issue after a report last week had suggested that Rouhani was implicated in the AMIA bombing.
A 2006 indictment in the case (PDF) names Rouhani as a member of the leadership council, headed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Rouhani’s name in the indictment was first reported by the Washington Free Beacon. Nisman’s comments on Monday confirmed Rouhani’s membership in the council, but ruled out his presence at the meeting of the parallel body that authorized the attack.
The final decision to attack the AMIA center was made by Khamenei and then-president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, according to the indictment. In the indictment, Argentinian prosecutors relied heavily on the testimony of an Iranian defector, former intelligence official Abolghasem Mesbahi.
The specific motivation for the 1994 AMIA bombing, according to Nisman, was to punish Argentina for suspending its nuclear cooperation with Iran. Once the decision was taken to act against the country, Nisman said in an earlier Times of Israel interview, it was a Jewish target that was decided upon — again, a familiar Iranian strategy. “When they choose to act against a country, the attack is commonly on the Jewish community,” he said. “It’s the first target.”
Speaking with The Times of Israel two weeks ago, soon after he issued a new 500-page report on the bombing and Iran’s wider terrorist infiltration of South America, Nisman said that Tehran had established its terror networks for the strategic long term, ready to be used “whenever it needs them.”
Linda Amar and Yoel Goldman contributed to this report.