Charges against Cristina Fernández de Kirchner come weeks after mysterious death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who had prepared criminal complaint.
Formal charges were brought against Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, on Friday, in connection with her alleged role in covering up the country’s worst terrorist attack.
The charges against Fernández, brought by prosecutor Gerardo Pollicita, are the latest developments in the political earthquake set off by the death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman. Pollicita acted on the 289-page criminal complaint against the president that Nisman made public on 14 January, four days before he was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head in his Buenos Aires apartment.
Nisman had been scheduled to present his findings to Congress the next day, accusing Fernández of secretly conspiring with Iran in trying to derail a criminal investigation into the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires which killed 85 people.
Nisman had alleged that Fernández entered into “an alliance with terrorists” starting in 2011 to exonerate five Iranian suspects from responsibility in the Amia Jewish community centre bombing.
Based on Nisman’s complaint, the president, foreign minister Héctor Timerman and legislator Andrés Larroque stand accused of concealment and obstruction, for trying to hide the responsibility of the five suspects.
The government reacted to news of the charges with anger on Friday.
“This is an active judicial coup,” said the cabinet chief, Jorge Capitanich, on Friday. “There is no proof at all. The people have to know that this is a vulgar lie, an enormous press operation.”
Another of Fernández’s closest advisers, the presidential secretary, Aníbal Fernández, dismissed the charges as “ridiculous, embarrassing and a clear manoeuvre of anti-democratic destabilisation”.
The opening of a court investigation into Fernández comes as preparations are under way for a pro-Nisman “march of silence” next Wednesday in Buenos Aires, organised by a group of prosecutors who are alarmed at what they feel is a smear campaign against Nisman’s memory by the government. President Fernández, under heavy criticism for not having offered her condolences to Nisman’s family, attacked the proposed rally during a televised speech last Wednesday.
The president was dared to join the march by one of the prosecutors behind it. “The president can’t walk with us, can’t look us in the eye, because she knows Alberto Nisman’s death has splattered her government with blood,” said Pablo Lanusse, speaking on Thursday at a special session of Congress called by the opposition.
Nisman’s former wife, Judge Sandra Arroyo Salgado, also spoke at the session, asking for Nisman’s death to be investigated by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IAtCHR) in Costa Rica. Although the couple separated about three years ago, Arroyo Salgado is representing the couple’s two daughters in the halting investigation into Nisman’s death by a Buenos Aires court, which has yet to rule if his death was a suicide or murder.
“I have to apologise because this is a very difficult moment for myself and my family,” Arroyo Salgado told the session. “I ask you to evaluate reporting the case to the IAtCHR.”
There is a palpable fear in political circles that the escalating war of words between the government and opponents could spin out of control. “The distance between words and blood is very short in Argentina,” said opposition senator Norma Morandini, who lost two brothers who were “disappeared” under the bloody 1976-83 military dictatorship.
The case against the president could face a long circuitous route through the courts before reaching a verdict. Pollecita’s charges must first be weighed by Judge Daniel Rafecas, who is expected back from his summer break next week. The judge will then allow the investigation to proceed or dismiss it should he consider the evidence insufficient, a decision which could take some time.
Only then would Fernández be called to testify. Her arrest would in any case be impossible unless she is impeached by Congress first, a highly unlikely event as she holds majority in both houses of Congress.
But that will change after Fernández leaves office on 10 December, and presidential elections are held in October. Having already served two terms in office, she cannot stand for reelection, in which case she would be exposed to arrest.
Nisman’s nearly 300-page complaint against the president is based on two years of secret service wiretaps.
Nisman spent years investigating the 1994 attack. According to Nisman’s investigation, Iran was the prime suspect in the blast.
So far, only five of Nisman’s highly damning wiretaps have been leaked to the press. “The government must allow us to hear the over 900 hours of intercepted calls that back up the charges against the president,” Lanusse said yesterday.
In response, the government presented a complaint at Rafeca’s court this morning “to support the legitimacy of the different actions adopted by the national executive and the bodies depending on it, with respect to the memorandum of understanding signed with the Islamic Republic of Iran”.
source : The Guardian