Today, former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner appeared in court to respond to allegations of her involvement in seeking to cover up Iran’s role in the terrorist attack on Buenos Aires’ AMIA Jewish community center in 1994. The deadliest terrorist attack in the country’s history, the bombing killed 85 people and wounded 200.
On October 8, federal judge Claudio Bonadio issued subpoenas for Kirchner and 13 others implicated in the complaint that in 2015, Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman was due to present to Congress before he was found dead the day before. Nisman was to present evidence that the Kirchner government had a secret back channel aimed at whitewashing Iran’s role in the terrorist attack in exchange for increased bilateral relations and trade.
Those who were subpoenaed include Fernandez de Kirchner, Hector Timerman, Angelina Maria Esther Abbona, Juan Martin Mena, Andres Larroque, Luciano Tanto Clement, Holger Martinsen, Susana Ruiz Cerutti, Eduardo Zuain, Luis Angel D’Elia, Fernando Esteche, Ramon Allan Hector Bogado , Hector Luis Yrimia, and Jorge Alejandro Khalil. The court hearings began October 17, 2017 and concluded today.
Kirchner arrived at the federal court today at 9:56am, just 4 minutes before she was due to appear. She submitted a 12-page testimony and did not answer questions. In her brief comments to the court, the former president defiantly declared that “the objective of this judicial persecution is to scare the leaders of the opposition” in Parliament, and added “they won’t be able to do that with me.” She defended a Memorandum of Understanding with Iran – later found to be unconstitutional – by saying that the MoU was a “political act that can’t be judicially tried.”
Her testimony is said to have mirrored in content that which ex-foreign minister of Argentina Timerman submitted on October 17.
Timerman declined to answer questions but his lawyers, Graciana Penaort and Alejandro Rua, submitted a 160-page document denying the existence of a cover-up aimed at concealing Iran’s role in the AMIA bombing. Timerman reportedly denied there was a secret meeting in Aleppo that Roberto Ahuad, Argentina’s former ambassador to Syria, reported took place in 2011.
Ahuad testified that he believed Timerman was flown by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s plane to meet with Ali Akbar Salehi, then-Iranian foreign minister, now head of Iran’s atomic energy agency. That meeting was allegedly part of the back channel between Iran and Argentina aimed at absolving Iran of responsibility in the AMIA attack in exchange for increased bilateral trade.
The most explosive testimony in the nine days of hearings was that of Allan Bogado, an intelligence agent in the former SIDE (Argentina’s intelligence agency), who had close contact with Khalil. On October 17 news reports began circulating that Bogado would reveal a pact between Iran and Argentina where Argentina would provide nuclear technology to Iran via Venezuela. They further reported that Bogado would claim he was instructed by SIDE to infiltrate the local Iranian network in Argentina to gather intelligence about the proposed nuclear swap.
During his testimony the following day, Bogado reportedly presented 18 pieces of evidence that the back channel’s goal was to have Argentina provide Iran with nuclear technology or know how. Argentina and Iran already had a history of nuclear cooperation before Argentina halted it.
Infobae reported that Bogado’s testimony included details about shell companies created in Uruguay “to disguise trips, the exchange of information, plans, and payments for the nuclear services.” Bogado also reportedly implicated ex-officials from INVAP, an Argentinian company that focuses on technology and nuclear energy and which holds a close relationship with the Argentine Commission of Atomic Energy (CNEA). Among others, Bogado also implicated Ruben Calabrese, the former director of CNEA.
Two days after his testimony, Bogado reportedly asserted that D’Elia received money from Iran “to finance Cristina Kirchner’s presidential campaign” in 2011. Bogado also asserted that an engineer – whose name was withheld by the court – was the “nexus” between Argentina and Venezuela in facilitating the nuclear technology arrangement with Iran. The Venezuelan facilitator was reportedly Adan Chavez, brother of ex-president of Venezuela Hugo Chavez.
While Bogado was alleged by Nisman to be part of the cover up, there is speculation that he may be cooperating in exchange for a lighter punishment should he be charged.
On October 18, along with Bogado, Jorge “Yussuf” Khalil and Fernando Esteche also testified.
Infobae reported that Khalil, an Argentine businessman and a member of the Islamic community in Argentina, did not testify during his court hearing but would “eventually” testify. Khalil was characterized by Nisman as an “Iranian agent.” Before his hearing, Khalil told the press that he “never represented the Iranian government in any way” and claimed that he did not know the MoU had been signed until Clarin reported it.
Perfil reported that Esteche testified for over an hour but opted out of questioning. He had been accused in Nisman’s final complaint of being an orchestrator of the “criminal plan” to grant the Iranians immunity for the terrorist attack. Esteche rejected the charges and asked for another court hearing after October 26 so that he could examine the evidence against him and observe the outcome of the remaining court hearings. The evidence against Esteche, like Khalil, came largely from wiretaps referenced in Nisman’s complaint.
Luis D’Elia, a former cabinet member of Kirchner’s administration, who testified on October 19, refused to answer questions during his hearing. D’Elia also added that he was “surprised” that he was called to a court hearing given that he said he “never participated in any negotiation” with Iran. He did not deny that he had traveled to Iran, reportedly four times, but he claimed that “immunity or business was never discussed” during those trips.
Today was an important day in a critical nine-day period ensuring that the investigation into a planned cover up of Iran’s role in the bombing of the AMIA did not get buried as Nisman’s killers had no doubt sought. It’s a critical step in the effort to hold Iran accountable for masterminding the terrorist attack. It signals that a modicum of justice for Nisman and the AMIA victims may be possible if the courts don’t succumb to threats and other efforts to tamper with the process that have regrettably been part of the history of the case.
 “Timerman se retiró de Tribunales descompensado, negó una reunión secreta en Aleppo y defendió el memorandum” Maria Jastreblansky, La Nacion. October 17, 2017.
 “El testimonio que podría demostrar la verdad oculta detrás del pacto del kirchnerismo con Irán.” Fabio Ferrer, Infobae. October 17, 2017. (https://www.infobae.com/politica/2017/10/17/el-testimonio-que-podria-demostrar-la-verdad-oculta-detras-del-pacto-del-kirchnerismo-con-iran/)
 “Memorándum con Irán: el “espía” Ramón Allan Bogado presentó 18 anexos de pruebas que complicarían al kirchnerismo” Infobae. October 18, 2017. (https://www.infobae.com/politica/2017/10/18/memorandum-con-iran-hoy-declara-el-espia-ramon-allan-bogado/)
 “Un ex espía denunció que “D’Elía recibió plata de Irán para la campaña electoral de Cristina” Daniel Santoro, Infobae. October 20, 2017. (https://www.clarin.com/politica/ex-espia-denuncio-elia-recibio-plata-iran-campana-electoral-cristina_0_By-IAJdTZ.html)
 Jorge “Yussuf” Khalil: “Yo nunca representé al Gobierno de Irán” Infobae. October 18, 2017. (https://www.infobae.com/politica/2017/10/18/jorge-yussuf-khalil-yo-nunca-represente-al-gobierno-de-iran/)
 “Quién es Khalil, el dirigente islámico que se convirtió en el eje de la trama” Natasha Niebieskikwiat, Clarin. January 15, 2015. (https://www.clarin.com/politica/khalil-amia-trama-dirigente_islamico_0_BkQkrUqPQg.html)
 “Esteche declaró ante Bonadio: “Somos actores de reparto” Ramon Indart, Perfil. October 18, 2017. (http://www.perfil.com/politica/esteche-declaro-ante-bonadio-somos-actores-de-reparto.phtml)
“Esteche rechazo haber encubierto a los iranies acusados del atentado” Telam. October 18, 2017. (://www.telam.com.ar/notas/201710/213864-atentado-amia-frenando-esteche-ex-lider-quebracho-claudio-bonadio-indagatoria.html)
 “Pacto con Irán: Luis D’Elía negó haber participado de las negociaciones” Lucia Salinas, Clarin. October 19, 2017. (https://www.clarin.com/politica/luis-elia-declara-pacto-iran-refuerzan-seguridad-comodoro-py_0_Hyfu2ZU6W.html)