After hearing is abruptly cancelled, critical judge is removed from panel ruling on unconstitutionality of Iran MOU

A pro-government majority on Argentina’s Judicial Council voted 7-4 to remove Judge Luis Maria Cabral from the panel that is reviewing the constitutionality of the Iran-Argentina Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) about the AMIA bombing. The court was set to hold a hearing to announce its decision on June 22 until it was abruptly cancelled. Cabral is the head of the Argentine Association of Magistrates, which is known to vigorously oppose efforts by the Executive Branch to interfere in the judiciary. Cabral was expected to vote to uphold a lower court ruling finding the MOU unconstitutional.

Cabral’s removal causes a further delay in the announcement of a decision, but the judicial council immediately named Judge Claudio Marcelo Vazquez as Cabral’s replacement, who is reportedly supportive of the government agenda. Infobae reports that the abrupt cancellation of Monday’s hearing was a “move by Judge Ana Maria Figueroa,” currently the head of the panel, who is also “close to Carlos Zannini,” the chief legal aide to President Cristina Kirchner and the vice-presidential candidate for the ruling party ticket.

La Nacion reports that even with Vazquez replacing Cabral, it remains unclear when the decision will be announced. The story also notes that Figueroa is also being replaced.

Questions remain whether this is yet another effort to discredit the work of AMIA Special Prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s investigations and to seek ways to validate the Kirchner government’s outreach plan to Iran. Nisman was found dead in his apartment the day before he was due to present his findings of a planned cover-up of Iran’s role in the AMIA bombing that killed 85 individuals. Nisman opposed the MOU, believing it was an effort to lift INTERPOL’s red notices for Iranian officials he accused of planning the attack. The Kirchner government replaced Nisman with three pro-government prosecutors, engaged in an aggressive campaign to discredit Nisman following his suspicious death, and pro-Kirchner judges declined several requests by prosecutors to investigate the complaint Nisman filed about the government’s secret back channel negotiations with Iran.