The Chinese and Russian governments avoided responding to an Argentine request to extradite a high-ranking Iranian official who visited both countries in official capacity, as he stands accused of being involved in the 1994 AMIA Jewish center bombing, in which 85 people died and hundreds were injured.
The official is Ali Akbar Velayati; he was the Iranian Foreign Minister between 1981 and 1997 and is currently a top aide of the country’s head of state, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Velayati has been accused of multiple crimes of murder, aggravated by the fact they were committed as a result of racial or religious hatred.
According to Federal Judge Rodolfo Canícoba Corral, the judge currently investigating the attack, though several judges have been involved throughout the years, Velayati partook in the high level meeting in which the Iranian government decided to conduct the attack. In a radio interview today, current AMIA President Agustín Zbar said “we need to achieve his capture, because [Velayati] was part of the intelligence office in charge of designing the preliminary plan to bomb AMIA.” There has been a warrant out for his arrest in Argentina since 2006.
For that reason, the Argentine Judiciary, through the Foreign Ministry, requested its Russian counterpart first, followed by its Chinese one afterward, to preemptively detain Velayati, “with extradition purposes.”
However, the Russian government failed to reply before the official left the country, even though there is a standing bilateral agreement of extradition between the two nations. Pundits argue the extradition was virtually impossible, considering that Iran is a strategic partner of the Putin administration in the Middle East, and it would not be willing to harm its bilateral relations for a matter such as this.
The same scenario is taking place in China, where Velayati is currently located. But since Argentina does not have a standing extradition treaty with China, Canicoba Corral informed the Xi administration that the Argentine Judiciary offers potential reciprocity, were there to be a case where China required a person in Argentina be extradited to the Asian country.
The Argentine government had already made similar attempts last year, when the Iranian official traveled to Singapore, Malaysia, and Lebanon. All of them were unfruitful.
Velayati was not arrested at the moment he landed in a foreign airport because he is not one of the five Iranian current or former officials who have Interpol red notices on them as a result of their involvement in the attack.