Argentina's Jewish community on Monday said it was “vehemently opposed” an agreement between Argentina and Iran to investigate the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center that killed 85 people.
Over the weekend, Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner announced an agreement with Iran to create an independent “truth commission” to investigate the 1994 bombing of the Israeli-Argentine Mutual Aid Association (AMIA) Jewish center in Buenos Aires. Iran confirmed the deal.
Argentina has long accused Iran of masterminding the attack that killed 85 people. Since 2006 it has sought the extradition of eight Iranians, including current Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi and former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, for carrying out the attack Iran has always denied any involvement in the bombing, and has refused to arrest the suspects. Kirchner said the two sides had agreed to create a "truth commission" with five independent judges – none of whom may come from either Iran or Argentina.
But the Jewish community in Argentina said that referring the case to a commission of this type was a denigration of the Argentinian justice system, which the community trusted to get to the bottom of the case. In a statement, the country's two largest Jewish organizations - the AMIA and the Delegation of Israelite Argentine Associations (DAIA) – said that creation
of the commission "would imply a decline in our sovereignty. To ignore everything that the Argentine justice has done and to replace it with a commission that, in the best of cases, will issue, without any defined deadline, a 'recommendation' to the parties constitutes, without doubt, a reversal in the common objective of obtaining justice," the groups said in a joint statement.
In Italy, MP Fiamma Nirenstein issued a statement, saying: "It is really not that straight-forward … who knows, perhaps Iranian justice reveals a certain charm for the Argentianians in rolling out to the public its last weapon against criminality: a machine that chops the fingers of thieves, whose pictures were published by the ISNA press agency. They beautifully document last week’s amputations, carried out in public (4 images were on France 24) to a man sentenced for theft and adultery in the city of Shiraz, who, according to the Chief Prosecutor of Shiraz, "does not show any signs of suffering".
"Do you think it’s sickening? Nevertheless there must be people who feel charmed by this sort of efficiency, like allegedly Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez, who established a joint legal commission, set up through a memorandum during a meeting between the Argentinean and Iranian Ministers of Foreign Affairs, in order to issue a "truly just" verdict on the 1994 massacre, which claimed the lives of 85 people at the Jewish Center in Buenos Aires.
Such commission will reopen an already classified trial."
In Jerusalem, foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Israel was "surprised" by the agreement. "We are waiting to receive full details from the Argentines on what is going on because this subject is obviously directly related to Israel," he said. "We warned the Argentinians from the start that the Iranians would try to set a trap for them and that they should beware," he added.
The bombing was the deadliest attack of its kind in Argentina, which has the largest Jewish community in Latin America, numbering about 300,000 people. A van loaded with explosives detonated outside the Jewish center in a densely populated commercial district of Buenos Aires, causing the building to collapse.
In addition to the 85 dead, hundreds more people were injured in the blast, which came two years after an attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 29 people and wounded 200.
Since 2006, Argentina has sought the extradition of eight Iranians, including Vahidi, Rafsanjani, and former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati. Community officials said they feared that Argentina would drop that extradition demand in wake of the new agreement with Iran.