An Argentine court Thursday declared unconstitutional an agreement with Iran to probe the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center, with a final decision left to the Supreme Court.
The government vowed to appeal. It holds that Tehran was behind the attack on the Argentine Jewish Charities Federation, or AMIA, that left 85 people dead and 300 others injured two decades ago.
"The ultimate interpreter of the constitution will be the Supreme Court," said Justice Minister Julio Alak.
In early 2013, Argentina's congress approved, at the request of the executive branch, an agreement with Tehran to form a truth commission to investigate the bombing.
The attorney general in the case, Alberto Nisman, had said the agreement constituted an "undue interference of the executive branch in the exclusive sphere of the judiciary."
Argentina charges that Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite movement, carried out the attack under orders from Iran, which Tehran denies.
Since 2006, Argentine courts have demanded the extradition of eight Iranians, including former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, former defense minister Ahmad Vahidi and Mohsen Rabbani, Iran's former cultural attache in Buenos Aires.
The accord between the two countries is strongly rejected by organizations representing the 300,000 members of Argentina's Jewish community, the largest in Latin America.
Another court decision ordered that extradition requests for the defendants be reiterated and made a demand for Interpol to reactivate memos of arrest for the Iranian former officials.
Rowhani is a chief suspect
In July of 2013, the Argentinian prosecutor general decided to block the chief investigator who led the probe into the AMIA bombing from testifying at a hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, entitled “Iran’s Extending Influence in the Western Hemisphere”, reflecting American concerns over the Islamic Republic's role in international terrorism, among other things.
Argentine Prosecutor General Alejandra Gils Carbó’s reportedly argued that the hearing is not “an institutional activity'” of Prosecutor Alberto Nisman, the Chief Investigator into the Buenos Aires AMIA Jewish Center bombing. Subsequently, no funds will be made available to Nisman’s office for that purpose.
Dr. Shimon Samuels, Director for International Relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, stated, “The Argentine decision is in line with the Argentine-Iran whitewash agreement. Nisman’s ongoing findings relating to the murder of 85 and maiming of over 300 in Buenos Aires, are crucial for the U.S. inquiry into Tehran’s influence in the Western Hemisphere.”
“Even more so since his recent indictment, which provides judicial evidence of Iranian and Hezbollah cells in nine South American countries and this network's links in the U.S.,” added Samuels.
Earlier, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was found to have been on the special Iranian government committee that plotted the 1994 bombing, according to an indictment by the Argentine government prosecutor investigating the case.
The AMIA bombing is considered the deadliest terror attack in Argentina’s history, killing 85 and wounding hundreds more.
According to a report by Free Beacon, Former Iranian intelligence official Abolghasem Mesbahi, who defected from Iran in the late 1990s, testified that the decision to launch the attack was made at the very highest levels in Tehran. Mesbahi claimed that the attack was commissioned by a special operations committee connected to the powerful Supreme National Security Council, in August 1993.
According to the 2006 indictment, Mesbahi testified that Rowhani, who was then serving as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, was also a member of the special committee when it approved the AMIA bombing.
Photos from annual protests demanding justice in AMIA probe (Reuters):