Menem charged with obstruction of bomb probe


Former president Carlos Menem was charged Thursday with obstructing a probe into the 1994 bombing of a building housing Jewish charities in Argentina that killed 85 people.

Some 300 people were also wounded in the attack that leveled the seven-floor Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires. No one has ever been convicted for the bombing.

Federal Judge Ariel Lijo charged Menem, 79, in his investigation of irregularities that took place during the first government inquiry into the July 9, 1994 bombing.

Lijo also charged the ex-president’s brother Munir Menem, the former head of intelligence services Hugo Anzorregui and retired judge Juan Jose Galeano, who was in charge of the investigation for 10 years but separated from the case in 2004.

In 2005, then-president Nestor Kirchner for the first time acknowledged “the responsibility of the state” in mishandling the bombing probe.

Argentine prosecutors allege Iran masterminded the bombing in Buenos Aires and entrusted the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah to execute it.

In November 2006, Argentine prosecutors issued arrest warrants against several Iranians, including Ahmad Vahidi, the current Iranian minister of defense.

The bombing was the worst terrorist attack in Argentina, which has the largest Jewish community in the Americas outside the United States, and the second large-scale anti-Jewish strike in Buenos Aires that decade.

In 1992, the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires was leveled in a bombing that killed 22 people and wounded 200.

Menem, a two-term president (1989-1999) from the ruling Peronist party, was once wildly popular, and his fondness for fast cars and women half his age and almost twice his height amused rather than angered Argentines.

But his popularity faded as corruption scandals emerged, his tough free-market policies alienated his electorate and the economy deteriorated.

Menem also faces charges in a separate case involving his role in a scheme to smuggle weapons to Croatia and Ecuador while both countries were involved in wars in the 1990s.

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