Judge indicts ex-president
Fernández faces treason charge, possible arrest in alleged Iran bombing coverup
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — A federal judge on Thursday indicted former President Cristina Fernández on treason charges and sought her arrest over allegations that she covered up possible Iranian involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.
In court documents, Judge Claudio Bonadio accused Fernández of covering up the purported Iranian role in the attack, which killed 85 people, in exchange for a potentially lucrative trade deal.
The court requested the lifting of her immunity from prosecution, a protection she enjoys as a sitting senator.
Authorities also conducted raids linked to the case Thursday, arresting three of Fernández’s former aides and associates.
Héctor Timerman, her former foreign minister, was placed under house arrest.
The charges stem from an investigation initially conducted by Alberto Nisman, a prosecutor who accused Fernández of a coverup in 2015 and later was found dead in the bathroom of his apartment with a bullet in his right temple.
Although rare, the lifting of parliamentary protection is not unprecedented.
In October, the National Congress voted to lift the protection afforded to her former planning minister, Julio de Vido, who was facing charges of fraud and corruption.
Fernández served as president of Argentina from 2007 to 2015 and once formed part of a cadre of left-leaning leaders in Latin America, including Venezuela’s late Hugo Chávez.
She has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing while in office, and on Thursday she lashed out at the fresh charges.
“This has nothing to do with justice or democracy,” Fernández said in Buenos Aires. “There’s no cause, no crime, no motive. There was a judgment without cause. God knows it, the government knows it, President [Mauricio] Macri knows it, too.”
There is little precedent for prosecuting treason in Argentina. Local media outlets have reported that the country’s only previously applied charge of treason dates to 1936, when Maj. Guillermo Mac Hannaford was accused of selling information to Bolivia and Paraguay.
In November, a new police report reignited the Nisman case with a conclusion that he was murdered.
His mysterious death came days after he alleged that Fernández and Timerman had colluded to shield Iran’s role in the car-bomb attack on the Jewish community center.
Nisman concluded that Ibrahim Hussein Berro, a Hezbollah operative from Lebanon with Iranian backing, had carried out the act of terrorism.
Iran has long denied any involvement in the bombing.
An initial report concluded that Nisman died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
But the new police report, obtained by The Associated Press, listed key evidence that suggested foul play.
Nisman’s nasal septum, for instance, was broken, and he had suffered blows to his hip and elsewhere.
A strong anaesthetic was found in his body.
Before his death, Nisman reportedly uncovered information in connection with a “memorandum of understanding” that Argentina signed with Iran on Jan. 27, 2013.
He alleged that the information outlined a plan to “collaborate with Iran on its goal to accelerate and support nuclear development” in exchange for an oil-for-grain trade deal and a finding by Argentina that the Iranians were innocent in the 1994 attack, official court documents said.
Argentina Senator and former President Cristina Fernández, waving to supporters, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing while in office.