Judge in­dicts ex-pres­i­dent

Fernán­dez faces trea­son charge, pos­si­ble ar­rest in al­leged Iran bomb­ing coverup

The Dallas Morning News - - Nation & World - Max Rad­win, The Wash­ing­ton Post

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.

Vic­tor R. Caivano/the As­so­ci­ated Press

Ar­gentina Se­na­tor and for­mer Pres­i­dent Cristina Fernán­dez, wav­ing to sup­port­ers, has re­peat­edly de­nied any wrong­do­ing while in of­fice.

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