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ARGENTINA: No One in Prison, 11 Years After Bombing

Marcela Valente

BUENOS AIRES, Jul 18 2005 (IPS) - Eleven years after 85 people were killed in the explosion of a Jewish community centre in the Argentine capital, the victims’ families point to the contrast between the lack of results in the investigation compared to the quick progress made in tracking down the culprits in terrorist attacks on the United States, Spain and Britain.

Eleven years after 85 people were killed in the explosion of a Jewish community centre in the Argentine capital, the victims’ families point to the contrast between the lack of results in the investigation compared to the quick progress made in tracking down the culprits in terrorist attacks on the United States, Spain and Britain.

“The investigation of the attacks on the Twin Towers (in New York), the Atocha subway station in Madrid, and now the streets of London show us that clarifying the attacks is not a pipedream,” said Sergio Burstein, a relative of one of the victims of the Jul. 18, 1994 bombing that toppled the Israeli-Argentine Mutual Association (AMIA) in the capital.

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” Burstein added Monday during the ceremony held in memory of the victims.

The families gather every year on the anniversary of the blast outside the rebuilt AMIA building in downtown Buenos Aires.

President Néstor Kirchner and his wife, Senator Cristina Fernández, once again attended the gathering, but this time as part of the crowd.


Several government ministers and foreign ambassadors from countries that have also suffered terror attacks, like the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, Spain on Mar. 11, 2004, and Britain on Jul. 7 also took part in the ceremony amid heavy security.

After 11 years of investigations marred by numerous irregularities, not a single suspect remains in prison today in connection with the AMIA bombing.

Senior officials of the government of Carlos Menem (1989-1999), judges and prosecutors are accused of a huge cover-up in connection with the attack, which took place just two years after a bomb killed 29 people in the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires.

The case against a group of police officers and a mechanic, who are considered to be part of a ring that provided support to the actual perpetrators of the bombing, was thrown out last year due to serious irregularities, including a 400,000 dollar payment to one of the accused by the State Intelligence Secretariat in exchange for his testimony implicating several of the other detainees.

As a result, the suspects were released from prison.

The payment was ordered by the Menem administration and approved by Judge Juan José Galeano and prosecutors who were taking part in the case.

Galeano, who handled the case for nearly a decade, is now facing prosecution for illegal deprivation of liberty, extortion, instigation of perjury and embezzlement in connection with the AMIA lawsuit. The verdict is to be handed down on Aug. 3.

In his speech, Burstein underlined that in the Jul. 7 bombings in three London subway trains and a double-decker bus, “it took just a few days to find out the first and last names of the perpetrators” – speed that stands in sharp contrast to the total lack of progress in the Buenos Aires investigation.

He also noted that in Argentina there has not only been a dearth of results, but false leads were followed, fake evidence was planted, and evidence was stolen during the investigation, besides a number of other irregularities that made it even more difficult to solve the case and bring those responsible to justice.

The president of AMIA, Luis Grynwald, also asked why in New York, Madrid and London the culprits were tracked down almost immediately, while in Buenos Aires that has not been done even 11 years later. His answer to his own question was that in Argentina, “the political will” has been lacking for years.

“We are desolate, disappointed, steeped in outrage and pain,” said Grynwald. “We are deeply worried that there have been no advances at all in so many years, that there are no new leads and that there has been no progress on the old ones.”

But he did point to the stance taken by President Kirchner, who took office in May 2003, as a source of hope that advances may be possible.

Although the current government belongs to the same Justicialista (Peronist) Party as Menem, it is at the opposite end of the ideological spectrum.

This year, the centre-left Kirchner administration admitted that the state had failed to live up to its duty of preventing the terror attack and that it covered up for the perpetrators by failing to investigate it properly.

This public admission was part of the commitment assumed by the Argentine government after a hearing before the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, to which the victims’ families and human rights groups had turned, accusing the state of “denial of justice.”

Kirchner also created a special prosecutor’s office to investigate the AMIA bombing and had the security archives related to the case made open to the public.

But while these moves have awakened some hope among relatives of the victims, they do not see them as sufficient to bring the material perpetrators and the masterminds behind the attack to justice.

“These are small steps forward that are not enough to bring the killers to justice,” Sofía Guterman, whose daughter Andrea was killed in the bombing, commented to IPS.

“Above and beyond the current government’s good will, the recognition that the state was guilty does not suffice,” said Grynwald in Monday’s memorial ceremony. “We want to know the whole truth about who planned and carried out the attacks.”

Burstein also welcomed the government’s acknowledgement of the state’s responsibility, and recognised the work that the special prosecutor’s office has been doing with its staff of 40. But he agreed that it was not enough to uproot the impunity surrounding the case.

“The word ‘state’ is very broad and not everyone in it was an accomplice,” he noted. “We want the names of those who were responsible,” he said, angrily mentioning Menem, former interim president Eduardo Duhalde (2001-2003) and several ministers from their governments.

Burstein referred to the officials accused of a cover-up, who are under investigation by the courts, as a “filthy band” of “opportunists, traitors, liars, accomplices,” and described Judge Galeano as a “despicable scoundrel.”

 
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ARGENTINA: No One in Prison, 11 Years After Bombing

Marcela Valente

BUENOS AIRES, Jul 18 2005 (IPS) - Eleven years after 85 people were killed in the explosion of a Jewish community centre in the Argentine capital, the victims’ families point to the contrast between the lack of results in the investigation compared to the quick progress made in tracking down the culprits in terrorist attacks on the United States, Spain and Britain.
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