Former Argentine president charged with treason over Iran deal

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner denies treason charges
(Image credit: Daniel Vides/AFP/Getty Images)

On Thursday, a federal judge in Argentina indicted former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and three associates, charging them with treason in a case involving Iran, a slain federal prosecutor, and the deadly 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires. Two of the associates were arrested; the third, former Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman, was placed under house arrest; and Judge Claudio Bonadio asked the Senate to lift Fernandez's immunity from prosecution. She was just recently sworn in as a senator, and it would take a two-thirds majority of her colleagues to lift her immunity.

Bonadio reopened the case against Fernández, president from 2007 to 2015, started by Alberto Nisman, a prosecutor appointed to solve the 1994 bombing by Fernandez's late husband, Néstor Kirchner, when he was president. In 2005, Nisman concluded that a Hezbollah operative had carried out the AMIA attack, which killed 85 people, with the backing of senior Iranian officials. In early 2015, he accused Fernandez and Timerman of striking a secret deal in 2013 to exculpate Iran in exchange for a lucrative oil-for-grain deal. A few days later, hours before he was set to testify against the two before Congress, Nisman was found dead in his apartment with a bullet in his head. The gunshot was originally found to be self-inflicted, but a new police report strongly suggests he was murdered.

Kirchner strongly denied the charges Thursday, suggesting they were a political witch hunt by Bonadio, himself under investigation for financial improprieties, and her conservative successor, President Mauricio Macri. "There's no cause, no crime, no motive," Fernández said. "There was a judgment without cause. God knows it, the government knows it, President Macri knows it, too."

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"There is little precedent for prosecuting treason in Argentina," The Washington Post reports. "Local media has reported that the country's only previously applied charge of treason dates to 1936, when Maj. Guillermo Mac Hannaford was accused of selling information to Bolivia and Paraguay."

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