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Argentine official causes outrage suggesting Israel should investigate AMIA bombing

Israel was not a target of the Iran-linked 1994 Jewish center bombing that killed 85; local Jewish community insists Argentina should do more to bring perpetrators to justice

In this photo from July 18, 1994, a man walks over the rubble left after of the Argentinian Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires after it was targeted in a deadly bombing. (Ali Burafi/AFP)
In this photo from July 18, 1994, a man walks over the rubble left after of the Argentinian Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires after it was targeted in a deadly bombing. (Ali Burafi/AFP)

JTA — A spokesperson for Argentina’s president is taking heat for arguing that Israel should help investigate the alleged perpetrators of the 1994 AMIA Jewish center bombing that killed 85 people.

Israel was not a target of the attack. The bombing, carried out by a Hezbollah suicide bomber and believed backed by Iran, occurred in Buenos Aires.

Gabriela Cerruti, spokesperson for Argentine President Alberto Fernandez, wrote on Twitter on Sunday that Mohsén Rezaee, Iran’s current vice president for economic affairs and a leading suspect in the AMIA investigation, should have been arrested by Interpol during a recent controversial visit to Nicaragua. Argentina put out an international warrant for Rezaee’s arrest in 2006.

Jewish Argentine lawmaker Waldo Wolff promptly criticized Cerruti’s statement, arguing that Argentina’s government has let Rezaee off easy and has not followed through on its stated objective of serving justice in the AMIA investigation — which has dragged on for decades, and involved multiple trials and the death of Jewish investigator Alberto Nisman.

Argentina’s ambassador to Nicaragua attended the recent inauguration of President Daniel Ortega there, alongside Rezaee.

“Interpol in each country operates according to local political directives,” Wolff wrote to Cerruti on Twitter. “It is not autonomous. Nicaragua hugged Rezai. Our government did nothing… Obvious complicity.”

File: Iranian former chief of the Revolutionary Guards Mohsen Rezai takes part in an anti-US demonstration in the capital Tehran, January 3, 2020, following the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Major General Qasem Soleimani in a US strike on his convoy at Baghdad international airport. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)

In response, Cerruti said that Rezaee is “wanted by Interpol and Mossad,” the latter being Israel’s intelligence agency. Those two groups “have far more intelligence resources than a Latin American embassy in a Caribbean country.”

Wolff and others condemned Cerruti, arguing that Israel has no stake in the case, since no Israelis were targeted or killed. The AMIA Jewish group released a statement saying that “It is the Argentine judiciary accusing Iranian officials of having planned and executed the attack… The investigation of the worst terrorist attack perpetrated in our country, whose target was an Argentine institution, concerns the Argentine authorities.”

Wolff called Cerruti’s comments “alienating” for Argentine Jews, The Daily Beast reported, and a Paris-based Argentine journalist quipped that “Argentines must be busy with other matters.”

“The entire thing is objectively a scandal,” an unnamed Argentine judicial source told The Daily Beast.

People hold signs during the commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the death of the special prosecutor in the AMIA case, Alberto Nisman, on January 18, 2020, in Buenos Aires. (RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP)

In 2015, Alberto Nisman was found dead in his apartment just hours before he was to present evidence against the then-President, now Vice President Cristina Kirchner for ignoring and covering up Iran’s involvement in the bombing. She was absolved of charges last year.

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