Photo via Diario Hoy

A political and legal bomb has just dropped in Argentina.

Early this morning, Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio indicted former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and requested she be stripped from congressional immunity so he can order her preemptive arrest, in the context of the AMIA cover up case. It will now be up to the Senate to decide whether to vote in favor of taking it away.

Bonadio made this decision after determining there is enough evidence to conclude that the former President is guilty of orchestrating a plot to cover up Iran’s role in the 1994 AMIA Jewish community center attack – in which 85 people died and more than 150 were injured – in exchange for trade deals, like late prosecutor Alberto Nisman had assured before dying.

Several other high-profile Kirchnerite officials and affiliates who had been accused of being part of the scheme were indicted in the same ruling as well. The judge also ordered the preemptive arrest of former Legal and Technical Secretary Carlos Zannini and former Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman, as well as controversial social leader Luis D’Elía, former Quebracho picket group leader Fernando Esteche and Jorge “Yussuf” Khalil. Due to his delicate health state, Timerman will be given house arrest.

Former Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI) head Oscar Parrilli and former Deputy Andrés Larroque were also indicted, but Bonadio only ordered they be prevented from leaving the country.

Judge Bonadio. Photo via Infobae.
Judge Bonadio. Photo via Infobae.

All of them have been accused of treason, aggravated cover up and obstruction of justice. If found guilty, they could get sentences that would range from 10 to 25 years in prison, or even life. Them getting preemptive prison depends on whether Bonadio believes there is a real risk they will attempt to flee justice, or obstruct the case by using their influence – by tampering with witnesses, for example.

In case you don’t remember, four days after making this scandalous accusation to the media and only hours before he was supposed to testify before Congress about it, prosecutor Alberto Nisman – who was the lead investigator in the AMIA case – was found dead in his Puerto Madero apartment with a single gunshot to the head.

What makes this even more controversial is the fact that 28 analysts in the Border Patrol (Gendarmerie) have concluded recently that the late prosecutor was murdered “in cold blood,” and that the crime scene had been tampered with in order to make it look like he had committed suicide.

These two cases are tightly related and if Bonadio concludes that the former President is effectively guilty of this charges, it’s not far fetched to speculate about the possibility of her being considered a person of interest in the investigation trying to determine who was behind Nisman’s death.

GOING BACK TO THE BEGINNING: THE ACCUSATION

In January of 2015, the prosecutor leading the investigation of the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center, stunned the world by saying that the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Argentina and Iran in 2013 (which among other things, sought to establish an Iranian committee to investigate the terrorist attack alongside Argentina) really intended to cover up the responsibility of Iranian officials involved in the bombing in exchange for trade agreements.

Let’s remember the MOU, however, never saw the light of day. An Argentine appeals court declared it to be unconstitutional and once the Macri administration — which was always against it — took office, decided not to appeal the decision, putting an end to it.

Nisman’s accusation was initially dismissed by Federal Judge Daniel Rafecas, and later by the Federal Court of Appeals, as both had concluded there was not enough evidence to open a formal investigation. However, following a new appeal, the Cassation Court determined the investigation be reopened. Federal Judge Gerardo Pollitica was tasked with picking up his former colleague’s investigation and Judge Bonadio with ruling over it.

Nisman. Photo via La voz.
Nisman. Photo via La voz.

After establishing the veracity of two new pieces of evidence: The first is that at least two phone calls from social leader and Kirchnerite acolyte Luis D’Elía were made to a person considered to be his “Iranian contact” directly from the Casa Rosada.

The second is based on a statement from former Argentine Ambassador to Syria Roberto Ahuad, who says that back in 2011 then-Foreign Minister Timerman held a secret meeting with Iranian envoys in Syria.

In there, they allegedly outlined the MOU and the ulterior motives it would bring to the table: The first one was dropping Interpol’s red notices on five of the eight Iranians accused of being the masterminds of the AMIA attack. These notices are international arrest warrants, meaning that the accused haven’t been able to leave their country (Iran) since they were issued.

The other one was to set up a so-called “truth committee” that the MOU would create to acquit the Iranians accused. “It intended to do so by introducing a different theory to the one put forward by the Argentine justice. The committee would be cleared to issue recommendations that would ultimately affect the investigation being carried by the Argentine Judiciary and, as a result, be an attack against our country’s republican and democratic system,” reads a paragraph of the 240-page-long request.

According to Infobae, an Iranian citizen named Mohsen Rabbani – who worked at the Iranian embassy in Buenos Aires as a cultural attache at the time of the attack – participated in these meetings.

The former President has always denied this was the MOU’s purpose, and argued the accusations are part of a political persecution against her. In an interview with Infobae in September, she assured the MOU was the only way to get the accused to testify. “It was what we had to do to get memory, truth and justice,” she said back then.