Buenos Aires, Argentina
Thursday, August 6, 2015
AMIA cover-up trial places Menem, Galeano in the dockBy Luciana Bertoia
Twenty-one years after the worst-ever terrorist attack suffered by the country, representatives of three branches of the state will sit in the dock today, accused of letting the perpetrators of the massacre go unpunished.
The trial that begins this morning into the attempted cover-up of the attack illustrates how the shockwaves from the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community centre that killed 85 people continue to reverberate across the Argentine political landscape.
Former president Carlos Menem along with his Intelligence chief, Hugo Anzorreguy, will be appearing today before Federal Oral Court No.2 (TOF 2) — in charge of judging the so-called cover-up of the AMIA attack.
Former judge Juan José Galeano along with former prosecutors Eamon Mullen and José Barbaccia — in charge of probing the attack — will also be defendants in the case as will former Federal Police (PFA) inspector Jorge “Fino” Palacios. Carlos Telleldín — who was acquitted in the 2001-2004 trial — will also have to explain his role in the attack this time.
Former DAIA head Rubén Beraja will also face accusations of being involved in a manoeuvre that sought to blame a group of Buenos Aires provincial police officers for the deadliest attack suffered by the country.
The Executive will act as a plaintiff in the trial, represented by lawyer Luciano Hazan, who in conversation with the Herald blamed judicial officials at the Comodoro Py courthouse for the delay in the proceedings.
Following a request from Memoria Activa, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will be sending commissioner Paulo Vannuchi as an observer for today’s hearing. Activists were in negotiations to extend the time Vannuchi — who served as Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva’s Human Rights minister — will be staying in the country to oversee the trial.
The Syrian connection
The 2001 trial into the AMIA attack floundered in 2004, but the Federal Oral Court No. 3 (TOF 3) represented a ray of hope for the relatives of the victims. The tribunal ordered to investigate the role played by judicial and intelligence officials in making sure the initial investigation went nowhere.
In 2005, Federal Judge Ariel Lijo took control of the case and six years later began ordering the defendants to stand trial.
Galeano is accused of dropping a line of investigation after receiving a phone call from the Pink House on August 1, 1994. Munir Menem, the late brother of the then-president, reportedly called on the judge to stop a group of raids targeting Alberto Kanoore Edul.
Kanoore Edul appeared as a suspect after the engine of a Trafic van was found between the ruins of the AMIA building located on Pasteur street. Officers were able to determine that the last owner of the van was Telleldín, a man with alleged close ties to the BA provincial police.
Galeano was not the only one who reportedly sought to frustrate the raids at Edul’s properties. “Fino” Palacios reportedly telephoned the suspect before a raid was carried out.
Investigators found out that Edul appeared to have connections to Mohsen Rabbani, the Iranian Cultural adviser to the country and allegedly one of the masterminds of the attack. However, Galeano decided not to continue tapping Edul’s phone.
Anzorreguy and his number two, Juan Carlos Anchezar, are also accused of hiding intelligence information that incriminated Edul, who reportedly was an acquaintance of Menem and the rest of his family.
In 2011, former AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman accused them all of diverting the so-called Syrian line of investigation into the bombing.
The probe into the AMIA case was already in a deadlock two years after the attack. Telleldín was the only suspect and a line of investigation implicating BA provincial police was hitting the headlines, but no progress was being made in the courthouse.
Between April and August, Galeano held negotiations with Telleldín, who agreed to incriminate provincial police officers Juan José Ribelli, Raúl Ibarra, Anastasio Leal and Mario Bareiro. The conversations between the judge and the suspects were filmed. Some of that footage was then reportedly stolen from Galeano’s chamber and aired on TV a year later.
But the BA provincial police officers had already been arrested and indicted by the judge.
Telleldín received 400,000 dollars as a payment for giving Galeano a line of investigation. The funds were provided by the State Intelligence Secretariat (SIDE), which was then commanded by Anzorreguy.
The AMIA case was being investigated by a SIDE group called Sala Patria, which was created to probe the 1989 attack against La Tablada garrison. The creator of Sala Patria was Patricio Finnen, who will also be sitting in the dock today. Finnen was entrusted with the investigation in December, 1995 and left the SIDE in 2001.
Finnen — who served at the clandestine detention centre known as Orletti during the last dictatorship — replaced Antonio “Jaime” Stiuso as the leading AMIA investigator.
The payment was made to Telleldín’s wife, Ana Boragni, by SIDE agents. She was accompanied by her lawyer Víctor Stinfale, who will also be among the defendants.
One of Galeano’s former secretaries testified that Beraja was aware of the manoeuvre. The former DAIA leader had close ties to Menem and his Interior minister, Carlos Corach.
Barbaccia and Mullen insist that they were not part of bribery scheme. The two former prosecutors will probably testify during the hearings seeking to clear their names. Galeano is also expected to testify.
Plaintiffs and prosecutors estimate that the trial will last around two years. Family members of the victims believe evidence may emerge to boost the probe into the attack itself.
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