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Argentine court blocks Iran truth commission

May 16, 2014

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — A federal court has blocked a joint “truth commission” the Argentine government set up with Iran to investigate the South American nation’s worst terrorist attack, but officials said Friday they will appeal.

The unsolved 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association in Buenos Aires killed 85 people, and despite 20 years of trying, Argentina’s justice system has yet to bring anyone to trial. Top Iranian officials have been on an Interpol capture list for years, but Argentine prosecutors have never been able to question them. Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman has promoted last year’s accord with Iran as a way to reach the truth.

A federal panel of appellate judges blocked the accord Thursday night, calling it an unconstitutional overreach of the foreign minister’s authority because it could delay or obstruct the judicial branch’s efforts, led by prosecutor Alberto Nisman, to resolve the case.

Timerman countered Friday that Argentina’s judicial branch is invading an area of clear executive power. Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich said officials hope for a speedy final ruling from the country’s Supreme Court on appeal.

Iran has repeatedly denied any involvement in the terror bombing. A report on the ruling by Iran’s state-run news agency on Friday described the Argentine accusations as the result of intense political pressure from the United States and Israel.

Leading members of Argentina’s Jewish community welcomed the ruling. The Mutual Association itself had sued to block it.

“We’ve been debating for a year and a half, waiting with our hands tied for Iran to approve the memorandum,” Sergio Widder, who directs the Latin America office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Buenos Aires, told The Associated Press. “It’s really a full year and a half that Iran has gained, and during which impunity has won.”