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Argentina President Kirchner cleared of Iran cover-up

An appeals court has upheld a former ruling dismissing a case against President Cristina Kirchner and her aides. They have now been cleared of covering up Iran's alleged involvement in a 1994 terrorist attack.

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, as well against several other prominent government officials, had been charged with trying to cover up an alleged involvement of Iran in the 1994 attack on the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association of Buenos Aires which killed 85 people and wounded 300.

On February 26, federal Judge Daniel Rafecas dismissed the case "for lack of a crime."

An appeals court upheld the ruling on Thursday, effectively dropping the case against President Kirchner and her aides.

The justice ministry said in a statement that the Federal Appeals Chamber had "ratifie(d) the decision by Judge Daniel Rafecas to reject prosecutor Nisman's accusation."

Prosecutor German Moldes still has the option to file another appeal.

Prosecutor death raises questions

The high-profile case drew media scrutiny earlier this year, when the prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, who had been investigating the case for nearly a decade, was found dead in his apartment# with a bullet through his head and a handgun and a bullet case next to his body. The incident occurred

four days

after had he filed his complaint on January 14, 2015.

Nisman had suspected Iran of having ordered the bombing at the Jewish center, which he claimed had been carried out by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Tehran denies the claim.

Nisman further concluded that a 2013 agreement between Argentina and Iran for the supects to be queried by a joint commission was merely designed to ensure that they would never be brought to justice. The deal fell through because Iranian law does not permit extradition whereas Argentinian law has no provision for trial in absentia.

In Nisman's view, the government was trying to protect high-ranking Iranian officials such as former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the motive being commercial benefits such as the export of agricultural produce and the import of oil. The Argentine government has always staunchly denied the allegation.

After Nisman's death - initially declared to be suicide -

a further team of prosecutors formally appointed by the government stuck to Nisman's accusations

.

In the latest development, the Federal Appeals Chamber on Thursday "ratifie(d) the decision by Judge Daniel Rafecas to reject prosecutor Nisman's accusation," as the justice ministry said in a statement.

Prosecutor German Moldes still has the option to file another appeal.

Cristina Kirchner took office in 2007; her present term as president ends in December.

ac/kms (AFP, dpa)

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