Carlos Saúl Menem, an ex-president of Argentina who is currently a senator in the South American republic, was accused on October 1 in Buenos Aires of obstruction of justice charges for his alleged part in covering up the so-called “Syrian connection” and Iranian involvement in the 1994 car-bombing that killed 85 people and injured hundreds more at the Jewish Mutual Association of Argentina (AMIA). Also brought to trial were Menem’s brother Munir, police officials Jorge Palacios and Carlos Castañeda, and secret service officers Hugo Anzorreguy and Juan Carlos Anchezar. In addition, the now disgraced judge who heard the original case, José Galeano, was also brought to justice.
The “Syrian connection” is based on evidence about Alberto Jacinto Kanoore Edul, a textile merchant whose Syrian father Kanoore Edul was a donor to Menem’s first presidential bid. According to prosecutor Nisman, the son was involved in launching the bombing at the AMIA. Menem himself is of Syrian extraction and his parents were born in Syria.
On July 10, 1994, eight days before the attack, Kanoore Edul phoned Carlos Telleldín about a used Renault van that was to be used in the attack. Among the evidence presented to the court is an entry in Kanoore Edul’s datebook that includes the telephone number of Moshen Rabbani-a cultural attaché at the Iranian embassy who has been linked to the bombing. Rabbani received the Renault van in question from Kanoore Edul.
According to a decision by federal judge Ariel Lijo, Menem while in the presidency used his office to influence the Argentine Ministry of Justice and secret services in order to protect a Syrian family involved in the deadly bombing and mislead the investigation. The defendants are accused of misuse of authority, destruction of evidence, repeated lying under oath, as well as the cover-up.
According to prosecutor Alberto Nisman, erstwhile President Menem began a cover-up 12 days after the bombing in order to protect Kanoore Edul and his family. Menem allegedly ordered that evidence be kept under wraps. It was Munir Menem-the president’s brother-who passed on the orders to Judge Galeano, as well as the police and secret service officers involved. Nisman alleged that detective Palacios destroyed 54 cassette tapes considered crucial to the case. Also, former Argentine secret service Claudio Lifschitz has claimed that he was abducted and tortured in the weeks following the bombing so as to not to reveal any connection to the Kanoore Edul family.
According to evidence presented at the court, soon after a 1994 police raid on Alberto Kanoore Edul’s home, his father met with President Menem at the Casa Rosada. Menem’s parents were born in Syria and had a longstanding relationship with the Kanoore Edul family. Following the Casa Rosada meeting, the investigation into Syrian connection went cold. Menem has been accused since then of receiving up to $10 million in bribes transmitted to a Swiss account from the Iranian government.
Federal Judge Lijo demanded $80,000 in bail but did not order the remand of Menem and his confreres, having ruled that they apparently are not likely to flee the country. The crimes for which they are accused could bring sentences of up to 24 years.
However, prosecutor Nisman is appealing to the federal court and is demanding that Menem and the other former government officials be held. Since Menem is a senator, a censure-which Nisman has already demanded-is required by the Senate. According to Nisman, holding Menem and the rest of the accused is necessary since it is logical that they would try to utilize their political ties to delay the current investigation to their own ends. Nisman is seeking the arrest of the alleged conspirators, but it is unlikely that they will remain in jail during the trial and investigation.
In his remarks, Nisman said that the prospective use by the accused of all their means at hand to ensure impunity would be nothing new. According to the prosecutor, the risk that they might flee the country does exist and is made more likely given the wealth amassed by the accused during their time in government. “This economic position does but favor the possibility of flight,” said Nisman.
The families of those killed by the 1994 blast are demanding prison time. Sergio Burstein, a member of a group representing the families of the stricken, reflected, “This wraps up a 15 year fight. But we want Menem to go to prison.”
Source: Cutting Edge News