BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) – Argentina’s former president is among 13 defendants who have gone on trial for bribery and hindering the investigation into the deadly 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish centre in Buenos Aires.
Ex-president Carlos Menem did not appear in person on Thursday, the opening day of the trial in a Buenos Aires federal court, due to health problems.
The original investigation failed to convict anyone following a three-year trial that ended in 2004. But the court ordered an extension of the investigation based on a bribery accusation against the presiding judge, Juan Jose Galeano, who is among the defendants now.
“Our expectation for this trial is that the process can shed some light on the attack, in order to know more about it and to be closer to bringing out truth and justice,” Julio Schlosser, president of the DAIA Jewish political umbrella, told JTA. “As in every judicial process, we are confident in our judiciary system.”
DAIA leader Ruben Beraja also is a defendant due to his involvement in the alleged bribery, prosecutor Luciano Hazan said Thursday in court.
The trial will continue each Thursday. With more than 140 witnesses expected to testify, it is estimated to last more than a year.
The bribery accusations involve a payment of $400,000 to an auto mechanic, Carlos Telledin, for testifying against police officers. Also, Galeano is accused of canceling a probe of Alberto Kanoore Edul, a Syrian relative of Menem, at the request of the government.
The July 18, 1994, attack on the AMIA centre, which took place during Menem’s first term as president, left 85 dead and 300 injured.
In 2005, a jury dismissed Galeano and the case was transferred to federal judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral and prosecutor Alberto Nisman. As a result of the Nisman-led investigation, Argentina is seeking the extradition of seven Iranians for their alleged roles in the attack. Nisman accused Argentina’s current president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, and foreign minister, Hector Timerman, who is Jewish, as well as other politicians of covering up Iranian suspects in the case.
Nisman was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment in January; the cause of his shooting death remains undetermined.