Local news network TN reported yesterday that on November 4 last month, Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie received a letter from his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, informing him that the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the two countries back in of January 2013 would drop Interpol’s red notices for the Iranians suspected of being behind the 1994 AMIA Jewish center attack. This would go against the former administration’s argument that the MOU signing would have no effect over them.
This – still alleged, as it has not been confirmed by government officials – information goes in line with the accusation made by the late Prosecutor Alberto Nisman in January of 2015, four days before being found dead in his apartment with a single gunshot wound to the head.
In September this year, analysts from Border Patrol determined this event was in fact a murder linked to the accusation.
At the moment of pressing charges, Nisman had argued that the MOU’s ulterior motive was covering up Iran’s role in the AMIA attack – in which 85 people died – in exchange for trade deals. His argument was upheld last week by Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio who, presenting further evidence provided by Prosecutor Gerardo Pollicita – how had continued Nisman’s line of investigation, indicted former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner as well as other high-profile Kirchnerite officials and affiliates, some of whom were preemptively arrested.
Zarif’s alleged letter answers to a request sent by former Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra, which he informs received on July this year, confirming that after signing the MOU, “the then-foreign ministers of Iran and Argentina [Ali Akbar Salehi and Héctor Timerman, one of the officials indicted], abiding by article 7 of the MOU, sent a joint letter to Interpol Secretary General [Ronald Noble] about the agreement reached to collaborate at a bilateral level, requested Interpol put an end to the institution’s obligations regarding the AMIA case [the red notices].”
In another passage of the letter, Zarif argues that “the holding of two rounds of conversations between experts in Zurich, Switzerland, in November 2013 and in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in 2014, about said Memorandum, is indicative that the same one has been fulfilled by both parties.”
This statement raises several questions, considering the legal obstacles the MOU faced right after being signed: an Argentine appeals court declared it unconstitutional, preventing it from moving forward in the country. And then in 2015, once President Mauricio Macri took office, his administration decided to not appeal the court’s decision, effectively putting an end to it.
Moreover, the Iranian Parliament itself did not approve it either. And the then-head of Interpol, Ronald Noble, told journalist Iván Schagrodsky that the Argentine government never requested the notices to be dropped, a statement that goes in line with the arguments raised by the indicted Kirchnerite officials.
However, the fact that Bonadio decided to move forwards with his decision after getting ahold of the letter (sources from the Foreign Ministry told Clarín it was sent to him) could be indicative that it played a role in his decision.
Shortly after the letter was published, leaders from the Jewish community pointed out that this confirms what they suspected from the very beginning. The current president of AMIA, Agustín Zbar, assured that the Iranian government’s goal was “the dropping of the red notices and getting impunity.” The president of the DAIA – which groups Argentina’s Jewish organizations – Ariel Cohen Sabban, went along the same lines, arguing that the letter “proves Iran needed the MOU to drop the international arrest warrants that had high-ranking officials in hot water.”
In contrast, Timerman posted a series of tweets this morning rejecting the MOU had that intention and said that the Iranian Foreign Minister is wrong if he thinks this was the case.
Interpol aclaró en reiteradas oportunidades q “ni
Argentina ni Timerman” solicitaron el fin de las alertas rojas. Si el actual canciller iraní piensa otra cosa está equivocado. La verdad es la única realidad, para Interpol las ordenes de arresto siguen vigentes
— Héctor Timerman (@TimermanHector) December 13, 2017
“Interpol clarified several times that “neither Argentina nor Timerman” requested the red alerts be dropped. If the current Iranian Foreign Minister thinks otherwise, he’s wrong. Truth is the only reality. At Interpol’s eyes, the warrants are still operational,” he tweeted.
His lawyer, Graciana Peñafort, argued that the letter, in any case, only illustrates Iran’s stance about the MOU, assuring that Argentina made it clear since the very beginning that it would not result in the dropping of the red notices. “This is not Argentina’s stance, much less Interpol’s,” she said in a long Twitter thread.
1. Leo en clarin – cuando no!- que Iran afirma que el el memoradum estuvo vigente y que su firma hacia caer las alertas rojas. Y les cuento!!!..esa es la postura de Iran. NO es la postura Argentina y mucho menos la posicion de Interpol
— Graciana Peñafort (@gracepenafort) December 13, 2017
“When the MOU was signed, it was communicated to Interpol. Why doing so? Because the organization mediated so it could be signed. On October 17, Timerman said that when he testified before the judge,” she added.
Clarín reported this morning that Foreign Minister Faurie answered to Zarif’s letter, highlighting the MOU is not operative and letting him know that “if he wanted for his government to improve the relations with the Argentine one,” he could “collaborate with the Argentine judiciary by getting the five Iranians accused to appear before a judge. Iran has always refused to do so, since its judiciary does not extradite its citizens.
No government official has come out to speak about the recent events. In fact, press reported yesterday that officials from the Justice Ministry will request Congress to include the so-called “trial in absentia” in the country’s criminal code, so they can use the proceeding against the Iranians.