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Argentina's Carlos Menem faces bombing trial


BBC

Former Argentine President Carlos Menem is to stand trial for allegedly obstructing an investigation into an attack on a Jewish cultural centre in Buenos Aires, officials have said.

Argentina blamed on the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah for the 1994 bombing, which killed 85 people.

But prosecutors say evidence indicating the involvement of local accomplices in the attack was covered up.

No-one has ever been convicted of the car bombing.

The attack on the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association took place on 18 July, 1994, during Carlos Menem's first term in office as president.

The bombing demolished the seven-storey cultural centre.

Argentine prosecutors said Iran planned and financed the attack, and that a Hezbollah cell carried it out.

The prosecutors say there is evidence that the Argentine intelligence services and security forces helped cover up the tracks of local accomplices of the attackers.

Mr Menem was initially accused of a cover-up in 2009, but has never faced trial.

As well as Mr Menem, the former judge in charge of the investigation, Juan Jose Galeano, has been ordered to stand trial for obstructing the investigation.

So too have the former heads of the intelligence service, Hugo Anzorreguy and Juan Carlos Anchezar, and two commanders of the federal police.

The federal magistrate in charge of the case, Ariel Lijo, said Mr Menem overstepped the powers accorded by the constitution and local laws.

In his statement, the magistrate said that Mr Menem - the son of Syrian immigrants - put pressure on Mr Galeano to abandon inquiries into the possible involvement in the attack of a Syrian-Argentine businessman, Alberto Kanoore Edul.

Kanoore Edul, who died in 2010, was a friend of Mr Menem's family; he always denied any involvement in the attack.

Mr Menem, 81, was president of Argentina from 1989 to 1999.

He is currently serving as a senator in the Congress in Buenos Aires.

If found guilty, he would have to be impeached by his fellow senators in order to serve a jail sentence.