Argentine Government Officials Convicted for Anti-Semitic Attack After 15 Years
On July 18, 1994, the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association building in Buenos Aires was bombed, killing 85 people and injuring hundreds. Argentine Jewish citizens grappled with not only a horrific anti-semitic attack but also with a long-awaited conviction.
The suicide bombing is still considered the worst terrorist attack in the country's history, as well as one of the deadliest attacks on the Jewish community since World War II. Almost a quarter of a century later, the attack remains unsolved.
On Thursday, a court in Argentina convicted eight people, among them two former top officials: federal judge Juan Jose Galeano and head of the intelligence services Hugo Anzorreguy.
Mr. Galeano, who was initially in charge of the investigation into the bombing, received a sentence of six years. Galeano was charged with crimes of suppressing evidence and embezzlement. Mr. Anzorreguy was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail for his role in the cover-up.
Ex-prosecutors Eamon Mullen and Jose Barbaccia were handed suspended two-year prison sentences for failing to execute their duties as public officials.
Former President Carlos Menem, however, was cleared of charges that alleged he conspired to derail investigations into the bombing.
According to the New York Times, relatives of the victims voiced disappointment in the acquittal of Mr. Menem, as well as regret that the trial led to no new evidence as to who committed the attack, and why.
“Over the past 25 years, this case has constantly been used and abused for different political ends — but never to deliver truth and justice to family members,” said Diana Malamud, a member of Active Memory, a group that played an instrumental role in having prosecutors investigate the cover-up.
Others saw progress in government officials being held accountable.
“Even in a very limited fashion, this sentence showed there was a responsibility of the top-line officials of the then-government,” said Laura Ginsberg, whose husband, José Enrique Ginsberg, died in the attack. Mrs. Ginsburg was a plaintiff in the case.
Mr. Galeano’s sentence was the longest term given. Galeano was found guilty of playing the most influential role in instructing the investigation.
Prosecutors assert Mr.Galeano paid $400,000 from state funds to a defendant to implicate a group of Buenos Aires police officers in the bombing. Four former police officers spent seven years in prison due to the false accusations, but they were exonerated in 2004.
The man who received the bribe, Carlos Telleldín, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison. Mr. Telledín was a second-hand car dealer who sold the van that contained the bomb.
On Monday, Mr. Galeano angrily denied the accusations. Galeano insists he may have made “mistakes,” yet asserts he did not commit any crimes. Galeano states he is instead a victim of a political plot.