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Argentina, Iran create commission to investigate 1994 community center bombing

Argentina signed an agreement with Iran on Sunday to create an independent Commission of Truth to investigate the 1994 bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish community center. Argentinian courts have accused Iran of sponsoring the attack [Reuters report], which killed 85 people, and in 2007 Argentinian authorities secured Interpol arrest warrants for five Iranians, including current Iranian Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi. Despite strong objections by Israel, the US and the Argentinian Jewish community, Argentina Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, who is Jewish, and his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi have been involved in a series of bilateral talks that began with their first meeting at the UN headquarters in New York in September. At a meeting in Ethiopia during an African Union summit, the two foreign ministers culminated their talks with the signing of a memorandum of understanding, which now needs to be ratified by the national parliament of each country. The agreement will create the independent truth commission, to be made up of five judges who are jointly nominated foreign legal experts having residency in neither Argentina nor Iran. The commission is to conduct an investigation and prepare a report with recommendations on how to proceed with the case based on the laws of each country and within the framework of international law. As part of the compact Argentinian authorities will be permitted to question the Iranian suspects [JTA report] under Interpol arrest warrants, but only in Tehran. Iran rejected Argentina's proposal to put its accused citizens on trial in a neutral country in 2010. Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez [official website, in Spanish] hailed the agreement [press release, in Spanish] as a historic guarantee of due process. Argentina is home to Latin America's largest Jewish community.

Earlier this week Iran drew additional ire from the US when an Iranian court sentenced an American-Iranian pastor to eight years in prison [JURIST report] for threatening national security through his leadership in Christian house churches. Earlier this month Iranian lawyer and prominent human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh [JURIST news archive] was temporarily released after spending over two years in prison [JURIST report] in Tehran for her September 2010 conviction for propaganda and harming national security. Iranian authorities pursued Sotoudeh because she represented political activists and sought to highlight the execution of juveniles in the country. Last month Argentina sentenced former Interior Minister Jaime Smart to life in prison for crimes against humanity [JURIST report] during the nation's 1976-1983 "Dirty War" [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. In July Argentina's Poder Judicial de la Nacion sentenced two former Argentine dictators [JURIST report] to a total of 65 years in prison for their involvement in the systematic kidnapping of babies from leftist activists detained and killed during the "Dirty War."

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