Argentine Judge Seeks Arrest of Ex-President Fernandez

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) -

A federal judge on Thursday asked Argentina’s Senate to allow the arrest of former President Cristina Fernandez on a charge of treason for allegedly covering up the role of Iranians in a 1994 bomb attack on a Jewish center.

Judge Claudio Bonadio asked lawmakers to remove Fernandez’s immunity from arrest, which she gained when she was sworn in as a senator last week. She was president from 2007 to 2015.

The judge also ordered the arrest of several aides and allies of Fernandez, including former presidency Secretary Carlos Zannini and activist Luis D’Elia on the same charges. Former Foreign Minister Hector Timerman was ordered held under house arrest due to health issues.

Prosecutor Eduardo Taiano said the charge of treason carries a potential prison sentence of 10 to 25 years while aggravated cover-up has a six-year penalty. A vote of two-thirds of the Senate would be required to remove Fernandez’s immunity from prosecution.

The judge is backing an assertion by former prosecutor Alberto Nisman that a 2013 agreement with Iran, which was portrayed as a joint attempt to solve the case, in reality ensured that the Iranians involved would never be prosecuted. The deal was approved by Congress, but was later declared unconstitutional by the courts.

Fernandez and the other defendants have repeatedly denied wrongdoing or involvement in any cover-up involving Argentina’s worst terror attack, the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association center in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people and wounded hundreds. Investigators have linked former Iranian officials to the attack, but Iran has denied any connection with the attack and declined to turn over suspects.

Argentina’s top criminal court last year accepted a request by a coalition of Jewish associations to re-examine the charge against Fernandez, Timerman and other officials originally made by Nisman on Jan. 14, 2015.

The case took an even more sinister turn when Nisman was found dead with a gunshot to the head four days later.

The initial police reports and autopsies found no sign anyone else had been present when Nisman died, and federal police said the prosecutor shot himself.

But Taiano said in November that a re-examination of the evidence showed that Nisman was murdered.