Argentina’s president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner charged

Formal charges come weeks after mysterious death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman

The charges against Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner are the latest developments in a political crisis in Argentina. Photograph: Enrique Marcarian/Reuters

The charges against Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner are the latest developments in a political crisis in Argentina. Photograph: Enrique Marcarian/Reuters

 

An Argentine prosecutor has formally charged the country’s president Cristina Kirchner with attempting to cover up Iran’s involvement in the 1994 terrorist attack against a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people died.

Ms Kirchner was accused of working to help senior officials in Tehran avoid responsibility for the suicide bombing in return for preferential trade deals. The case was brought by the prosecutor Alberto Nisman, four days before his mysterious death on January 18th.

On Friday, another prosecutor, Gerardo Pollicita, filed documents in a federal court charging the president and four others based on evidence gathered by Nisman. Among the others named is foreign minister Héctor Timerman. Now federal judge Daniel Rafecas must decide if there is enough evidence to proceed with the case.

Nisman’s death last month shocked the nation and has rocked Ms Kirchner’s government, with protesters taking to the streets to accuse her of murdering an opponent a day before he was to detail his findings against her in congress.

These centre on a controversial 2013 deal with Iran to set up a truth commission to establish the facts of the bombing of the Amia centre.

Deal with Iran

The Argentine government claimed the deal was designed to bring closure to an investigation that had dragged on for two decades. But Nisman claimed its real intention was to get Iran off the hook for its alleged involvement in the attack in return for secret trade deals.

 

The accord was later declared unconstitutional.

Ms Kirchner has dismissed Nisman’s accusations as “absurd” and claims he was manipulated by rogue spies who then killed him to smear her. His case relied heavily on wiretaps provided by the country’s shadowy spy agency, which has a long record of interfering in domestic politics. Last month the president announced the abolition of the country’s intelligence secretariat.

Investigators are still trying to determine if Nisman was murdered or took his own life, with the speculation about the cause of his death deepening Argentina’s dangerously polarised political divide.

The administration is currently fighting a ferocious media battle on two fronts, seeking to distance itself from any involvement in Nisman’s death while simultaneously seeking to undermine the case he built against the president.

As news of impending charges against Ms Kirchner circulated yesterday morning, her cabinet chief Aníbal Fernández said any such move “would be a measure to destabilise democracy”.

Her supporters point out that despite the 2013 agreement with Tehran the request to Interpol to arrest leading Iranian officials for their involvement in the bombing has not been rescinded, nor has bilateral trade between the two nations increased.

The Amia centre was demolished after a suicide bomber drove a truck into it. Argentine investigators have gathered evidence they say proves Hizbullah carried out the attack, the deadliest against a Jewish target since the second World War.

But there has long been speculation about who commissioned the Lebanese militia to strike, with Libya and Syria also suspected of being the bombing’s intellectual authors, along with Iran.