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Judge seeks removal of immunity, arrest of former president of Argentina

Andres D'Alessandro and Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner on Thursday denounced as political "persecution" a judge's demand that she be arrested on suspicion of treason for allegedly covering up Iran's purported role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center here.

"This is an invented case about acts that don't exist," Fernandez, recently elected a senator, told reporters at the national Congress as allied lawmakers surrounded her. "What is unfolding is an absurdity," charged Fernandez, who was president from 2007 to 2015.

Earlier Thursday, a federal judge had asked Argentina's Senate to remove Fernandez's immunity as a lawmaker so that she could be arrested on suspicion of treason.

Fernandez was elected to the chamber in October and will take office Sunday.

The widow of former President Nestor Kirchner, Fernandez has been a polarizing figure in Argentine politics for more than a decade and faces several other criminal charges, including corruption, money laundering and financial mismanagement while in office.

The treason allegation unveiled Thursday represented the first time that a judge had requested Fernandez's arrest.

 

The judge, Claudio Bonadio, alleged that a 2013 deal reached while Fernandez was president helped shield Iranians allegedly involved in Argentina's worst terrorist attack: the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association center in Buenos Aires. The attack killed 85 and wounded hundreds.

The aftermath of the bombing has left a legacy of swirling allegations and broad mistrust in the nation's political and law enforcement systems.

Iran's government has repeatedly denied any role in the attack and refused to hand over suspects in the case.

Fernandez has called her mounting legal woes a political vendetta and denied all wrongdoing. Still a key figure in the Argentine left, she blamed her major political antagonist, President Mauricio Macri, a center-rightist, for orchestrating "these maneuvers and ... persecution."

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