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Argentina’s Refusal to Provide Iran with Nuclear Technology Lead to Bombing Jewish Center

April 13, 2024
Florencia Montaruli
5 min read
The court attributed responsibility for both attacks to the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah militant group
The court attributed responsibility for both attacks to the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah militant group

The Federal Criminal Court of Argentina has ruled that the March 1992 attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, and the July 1994 bombing of the Argentina Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) Jewish centre, were both orchestrated as part of a "political and strategic design" by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The court attributed responsibility for both attacks to the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah militant group.

The new verdict has paved the way for Argentina to pursue a formal lawsuit against Iran, and currently, the Argentinian government is "working at full speed" to prepare a "trial in absentia."

The 1992 bombing claimed 29 lives at the Israeli embassy, while the 1994 attack on the AMIA center resulted in 85 fatalities and 300 injuries when a truck laden with explosives detonated.

The ruling, delivered by judges Carlos Mahiques, Diego Barroetaveña, and Angela Ledesma, concluded that Hezbollah members orchestrated, planned, financed, and carried out the AMIA bombing. 

The court’s ruling also officially designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, detailing its organic, functional, and ideological allegiance to the Islamic Republic.

The judges conducted a "comprehensive" analysis of the AMIA bombing case. 

In the verdict, spanning a total of 800 pages and seen by IranWire, the court deemed the attack on the AMIA as a "crime against humanity."

Judge Mahiques also said that both the attacks on the Israeli embassy and the AMIA bombing were orchestrated as part of a "political and strategic" agenda by the Islamic Republic.

"The main reason was the [Argentine] government's unilateral decision to cancel three contracts for the provision of nuclear material and technology agreed upon with Iran," he said of the reason behind the bombings. 

According to him, the Islamic Republic's response to what it perceived as "unacceptable Argentine non-compliance" was the decision to plan and execute the bombings "as an extreme form of pressure" for Argentina to reverse its decision. 

In the 1980s, Argentina's National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) signed deals with Iran to build a uranium purification plant. 

But this cooperation did not last. Pressured by the United States, and worried about Iran's possible nuclear program for non-peaceful uses, in 1992 President Carlos Menem ended the cooperation agreement.

The April 12 ruling also confirmed the involvement of Iranian and Lebanese officials and agents in the attack on AMIA. 

According to Argentine Justice, Iranian officials deemed responsible for the decision-making, planning, and execution of the attack, as well as their positions at the time, were Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (President of the Islamic Republic of Iran), Ali Fallahijan (Information Minister), Ali Akbar Velayati (Foreign Minister), Mohsen Rezai (in charge of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), Ahmad Vahidi (in charge of the elite expeditionary Quds Force within the Revolutionary Guard), Mohsen Rabbani (Cultural Attaché of the Iranian Embassy in Argentina), Ahmad Reza Asghari, Mohsen Randjbaran (Third Secretary at Iran’s embassy in Argentina), and Hadi Soleimanpour (Iran’s ambassador to Buenos Aires).

Imad Mughniyeh, who led the Foreign Service of Hezbollah and was accused of orchestrating the AMIA attack in Buenos Aires, was also named. 

Both Mughniyeh and Rafsanjani are dead now.

In 2023, four additional suspects were added to this list after an investigation by the AMIA Fiscal Unit in collaboration with Brazil. 

They are Hussein Mounir Mouzannar, Ali Hussein Abdallah, Farouk Abdul Hay Omairi, and Abdallah Salman, also known as José El Reda.

The three judges reaffirmed that the attacks must be classified as a crime against humanity, thus declaring it “imprescriptible,” or difficult or impossible to penalize through normal legal means.

Moreover, the verdict cautioned that international responsibility should also be attributed to the Iranian government itself by possibly categorizing it as a state-sponsor of terrorism. Iran would then be obliged to compensate for damages, material and otherwise, paving the way for victims and their relatives to seek recourse through international courts. 

The relatives of the victims could directly sue Iran.

In an interview, Judge Mahiques also said that if Alberto Nisman, an earlier prosecutor in the case, had been able to continue and intensify his work, his findings would have lead the investigation to point to Iran and Hezbollah as responsible for the attacks. Nissan would have reached the same conclusions as the Federal Court of Criminal Law – just years earlier. 

"Nisman was very clear that all these circumstances were the root cause of the AMIA attack, which, pursued to its logical conclusion, could have yielded decisive results before this verdict," said Judge Mahiques. 

Alberto Nisman was killed on January 18, 2015, shortly after accusing then-President Cristina Kirchner of covering up Iran's responsibility in the AMIA bombing through the infamous "memorandum of understanding" signed in 2013 between both countries.

Mahiques also elaborated on the reasons for the verdict and how he arrived at that conclusion.

"There is a well-established link between the Government of Iran at the time and Hezbollah," he added. "Hezbollah could not have attacked the AMIA without the financing and planning of the Islamic Republic of Iran."

The decision by the Criminal Law Court has significant implications for the international political and legal landscape along with the possibility of holding those responsible accountable through legal action. 

According to Judge Mahiques, Argentina could pursue the case through diplomatic channels, establish a tribunal, or even seek recourse through the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial body of the United Nations.

"We are going to work at full speed with the Ministry of Justice," said Patricia Bullrich, Argentine Minister of Security. "It is time for those people to be tried by the Argentine justice." 

President Javier Milei said: "This significant advance in the judicial field highlights the repeated attempts of Cristina Kirchner to cover up Iran's responsibility and postpone this historic sentence, by betraying the homeland in 2013 with the signing of the so-called 'Memorandum of Understanding', a pact that promoted and guaranteed terrorist impunity."

Miguel Angel Toma, former Head of the Intelligence Secretariat of Argentina, called the Islamic Republic a "terrorist state that uses terrorist organizations to carry out these types of attacks."

"The AMIA bombing was decided on August 16, 1993, in a meeting in which they were present several Iranian political and religious leaders, including then-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani," he said. 

Jorge Knoblovits, president of the Delegation of Argentine Israeli Associations, said: “This is a historic verdict that Argentine society was waiting for and that determines something fundamental, which is that a State promotes terrorism throughout the world, and this State did it in Argentina twice.”



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