Argentina Still Waiting for 1994 Jewish Center Bombing Justice

W460

Argentina marks the 25th anniversary of the bomb attack on a Jewish center that left 85 people dead with a day of mourning on Thursday, but the relatives of victims are still waiting for justice.

"What comes to mind when I think of it is this moment of obscurity, a moment that was interminable, a noise, but also the silence of those of us who were there. I don't think our minds could understand," Anita Weinstein, a survivor of the attack, told AFP.

"This attack, even if there was a large anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic component -- of course -- was an attack on Argentina and Argentine society," said Weinstein, who worked at the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA), where the attack was carried out.

A truck loaded with explosives was driven into the AMIA center in a densely populated central area of Buenos Aires, also leaving 300 people wounded.

On Wednesday, three commemorative murals to the victims were unveiled at the adjacent Clinicas Hospital where many of the victims were treated.

With its 300,000-strong Jewish community -- second only to the US in the Americas -- Argentina is the only country in Latin America to have suffered such an anti-Semitic attack.

But the AMIA bombing wasn't the only one.

Two years earlier, in a context of extreme tensions between Israel and Iran, the Jewish state's Buenos Aires embassy was hit by a suicide bomber driving a truck, killing 29 people and wounding 200.

That attack was claimed by the Islamic Jihad group while the later bombing was widely blamed on Iran and its ally, the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah movement.

Islamic Jihad is widely believed to have been assimilated into Hezbollah when it disappeared in the early 1990s.

- Cover-up -

AMIA president Ariel Eichbaum hopes Argentina will soon declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

On Wednesday, Argentina created a register of people and entities linked to acts of terrorism, an important step in allowing it to declare any group or person a terrorist not already listed as such by the United Nations.

But there's no guarantee this move will ever lead to justice.

Argentina has accused top Iranian ex-officials of being behind the AMIA attack but has never been able to question them.

Decades of investigations have been beset by political interference and allegations of high-level corruption.

In 2012, then-president Cristina Kirchner signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran, which was never ratified, that would have allowed Iranian suspects in the bombing to be questioned back home.

Prosecutors investigating Kirchner for corruption now say it was effectively a cover-up to absolve Iran in return for lucrative trade deals with her government.

Despite numerous investigations into a "local connection" and a "Syrian link," no one has ever been charged with involvement in the bombing.

A former judge who led the probe, Juan Jose Galeano, was jailed for six years in February for his role in a cover-up.

Ex-president Carlos Menem, who was the country's leader at the time of both attacks, was acquitted of involvement in the cover-up, but his former intelligence chief Hugo Anzorreguy was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail for his role in obstructing the probe.

"Justice has failed miserably. It's been 25 years since the attack and the truth is we don't have anything," said Diana Malamud, the wife of one of the victims and leader of a group of victims' families called Memoria Activa (Active Memory.)

"The political power has no interest in advancing the AMIA cause," said Mario Cimadevilla, the former head of an investigative unit into the 1994 bombing.

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