This is an unpublished and exclusive interview that was conducted in Prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s office in April 16, 2014. At that time, the prosecutor criticized the “memorandum of understanding” between Argentina and Iran, calling it “absolutely unconstitutional”. On May 15, 2014, the First Court of the Federal Chamber in Buenos Aires declared Argentina-Iran memo unconstitutional. The Argentine justice system is still trying to bring those responsible for the 1994 attack that left 85 dead and about 300 wounded to justice. He had been investigating the bombing for the last ten years. On January 18, he was found dead in his apartment under still unverified circumstances on the day before he was to give testimony in Argentina's congress. Protests have sprung up in Argentina since then in repudiation of the crime and the current government.
 
Nearly 20 years after the deadly attack on the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, the Argentine justice system is still trying to bring those responsible to trial.
 
Nearly 20 years after the deadly attack on the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, the Argentine justice system is still trying to bring those responsible to trial.
 
Eight former Iranian officials are accused of planning the terrorist attack carried out by the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah, which left 85 dead and about 300 injured on July 18, 1994. 
 
In 2007, Interpol issued red notices for five of the suspects. But Iran is refusing to turn them over.
 
In 2013, the governments of Argentina and Iran signed a Memorandum of Understanding, providing for the creation of a “Truth Commission,” but the agreement also has failed, according to Alberto Nisman, the special prosecutor for the AMIA case.
 
“In addition to being unconstitutional, the Memorandum resulted in absolutely nothing,” Nisman said. 
 
How can the Iranians accused of participating in the AMIA bombing be brought to justice?
 
Nisman: That’s the problem we’ve had since 2007, when Interpol accepted our request for high-priority international arrest warrants through the issuance of red notices. Argentina is a country that doesn’t allow for trial in absentia, which means rulings cannot be issued against people who aren’t there. In order for rulings to be issued, they need to provide preliminary statements for the trial, and then the case can proceed. Why haven’t they provided preliminary statements? Because there is a state [Iran] that is not only sheltering the accused, it’s protecting them. It’s a state that provides support to terrorism and denies any type of collaboration. Furthermore, it isn’t easy to act on the arrest warrants issued by Interpol, despite the excellent willingness shown by Interpol in this regard.
 
Why?
 
Nisman: When Interpol tries to arrest these people, it turns out that they are traveling with diplomatic immunity. For example, about five years ago, one of the people for whom a warrant and a red notice had been issued was the former commander of the Pasdaran [Revolutionary Guard], Mohsen Rezai. I found out he was going to Saudi Arabia and I notified Interpol. But they didn’t arrest him. Interpol explained that Rezai left Iran with diplomatic immunity alongside then-President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad. During a ceremony in Saudi Arabia, he sat beside the king. “Even if we wanted to, we’re legally prevented from arresting him,” Interpol said. And they’re right. So there’s a state that’s not cooperating and an international community that doesn’t demand that Iran comply with the rulings issued by the Argentine courts and by Interpol – of which Iran is a member.
 
How can Iran be made to respect Interpol’s decisions?
 
Nisman: We keep insisting and the Office of the Prosecutor keeps on analyzing alternative mechanisms, based on the international jurisprudence of different international organizations, to see what might be applied. We still don’t have a definitive answer. If we come to the conclusion that something can be done beyond that which we have already been doing, we’ll do it, as we always do, in writing, as befits our role.
 
 
What is your opinion of the “Memorandum of Understanding” between the governments of Argentina and Iran?
 
Nisman: From a legal point of view, it’s absolutely unconstitutional. It violates constitutional regulations, such as due process, the right to trial and the separation of powers and international treaties. Furthermore, since a crime against humanity such as the AMIA case is a systematic violation of human rights, it leaves the Argentine state – should it approve the Memorandum that Iran hasn’t even approved – susceptible to sanctions from international human rights organizations. And in the unlikely event that something totally unconstitutional is signed, one has to ask: what for? It didn’t even envision the inclusion of preliminary statements! It provided for a “declaration” to be given to a Truth Commission in which not even Argentine judges were eligible to participate.
 
Have other countries in the region cooperated with the investigation into the attack?
 
Nisman: Prior to the Memorandum, other countries were generally very helpful. After the Memorandum, the responses have been a bit more reluctant.
 
Has the Memorandum generated misperceptions about Argentina?
 
Nisman: I can’t speak for others. But just imagine that you are a prosecutor from another country and you have to send information [to Argentina] about an Iranian involved in the attack. But you know that if the Memorandum is in effect, the information will reach Iranian authorities. Wouldn’t you think twice before sending it?
 
Any news regarding local connections to the attack?
 
Nisman: We are going to trial against Carlos Telleldín, who was the last person in possession of the car bomb. [In 2003, a court acquitted Telleldín and police officers accused of local involvement, but in 2007, the Supreme Court overturned Telleldín’s acquittal and ordered a new trial]. Telleldín might not be the only one charged, but it’s too early to say. Two trials will also begin regarding cover-up attempts, against former President [Carlos] Menem, former Judge [Juan José] Galeano and other former officials. The Oral Federal Criminal Court No. 2 already has been designated [for the cover-up trials]. The discovery process already has been carried out. Now the court will decide what evidence will be used in the trial, and then a date will be set. I hope that it will be sometime this year.
In your investigation, you discovered that beginning in the 1980s, Iran infiltrated intelligence cells in Latin America to recruit agents for terrorist attacks. Is this network still operating?
 
Nisman: The implementation of the networks is a lengthy process. In Guyana, for example, one person who already has been convicted [Abdul Kadir] began working as an intelligence agent in 1984 and was used in 2007 in a failed plot to attack [New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport]. In other words, 23 years later. What to us seems like many years to them is just a short period of time. That’s why I sent a copy [of the opinion] to judicial officials in many countries, so they would continue with their investigations. It’s my understanding that they’re making progress and the information we provided has been valuable.
 
Is there evidence that Hezbollah is financing itself through illegal activities in Latin America?
 
Nisman: We’ve found some evidence in this regard, such as the sale of illegally obtained items and the smuggling of electronics and other products.
 
(c) Copyright. All rights reserved. Eduardo Szklarz. Photographs and text.

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