Latin America

Judge selected to investigate cover-up allegations against Argentinean leader

Daniel Rafecas’ appointment comes after three colleagues declined to take the case

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner speaks in Beijing on Wednesday.
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner speaks in Beijing on Wednesday.REUTERS

A federal appeals court in Argentina has selected a judge in Buenos Aires to take up the investigation into allegations that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner tried to cover up for Iranian officials suspected of attacking the AMIA Jewish center in 1994.

Judge Daniel Rafecas was on Wednesday assigned the case that was first filed by prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who died from a gunshot wound just days after he outlined the charges against Fernández de Kirchner, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman and other officials.

Rafecas’ appointment came after three of his fellow judges declined to take on the controversial case, which has raised further questions about Nisman’s sudden death and the government’s role in the terrorist attack 21 years ago.

A well-known jurist in Argentina, Rafecas was pulled off a corruption investigation into the business dealings of Vice President Amado Boudou after the government accused him in 2012 of leaking official documents to the media.

Rafecas was pulled off a graft investigation into the business dealings of Vice President Amado Boudou

It is unclear at this stage whether he will call Fernández de Kirchner to testify. The president is on an official trip to China.

Just four days before his body was found in his apartment, Nisman filed charges against the president, her foreign minister, ruling party lawmaker Andrés Larroque and others, accusing them of trying to derail his inquiry into the 1994 terrorist attack that left 85 people dead and dozens injured.

Nisman alleged that the Fernández de Kirchner government was trying to negotiate a grain-for-oil deal with Tehran in exchange for impunity for the Iranian officials who are wanted for the AMIA bombing.

Nisman was found in his bathroom next to a .22 caliber pistol that he reportedly borrowed from his friend, computer expert Diego Lagomarsino. No official ruling on the prosecutor’s death has been made.

Lagomarsino, who met Nisman just hours before his death, has been charged with a firearms violation. His lawyer announced on Tuesday that he would call President Fernández de Kirchner to testify as a witness in his client’s case.

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Nisman filed his case with Judge María Servini de Cubría – the Buenos Aires magistrate who is investigating crimes committed against Argentineans and Spaniards during Spain’s Franco dictatorship. Servini de Cubría declined to take on the case after ruling that another colleague, Judge Ariel Lijo, was already investigating a similar cover-up that may have occurred during the administration of President Carlos Menem (1989-1999).

Nevertheless, Lijo ruled that the scope of his own inquiry covered the period from the time the terrorist attack took place to 2004, and also declined to assume jurisdiction.

The investigation was randomly assigned to a third judge, Sebastián Ramos, but he also declined to take it because he believed Lijo should preside over the inquiry.

Finally, on Wednesday, the president of the Federal Criminal Appeals Court, Martín Irurzun, ruled that Rafecas should be assigned the case.