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Argentina judge orders arrest of former president

[JURIST] Argentinian Judge Carlos Bonadio [CIJ backgrounder, in Spanish] ordered [text, PDF, in Spanish] the arrest of current senator and former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner [official website, in Spanish] on Thursday for her alleged involvement in a cover-up of Iran's participation in a 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center [BBC backgrounder] that left 85 people dead

Kirchner served as president of Argentina from 2007 to 2015 before being elected senator. During that time, Kirchner is alleged to have signed a deal with the Iranian government that would allow for Argentine magistrates to interview the officials suspected of ordering the attack in Tehran rather than in Buenos Aires in an attempt to impede any investigation into the matter. For this, Kirchner faces a charge of treason. The crime of treason is punishable by 10 to 25 years in prison in Argentina.

However, as Kirchner is currently a senator, the Argentinian Congress [official website, in Spanish] will have to first vote to strip her of her parliamentary immunity before she can be taken into custody. In order for the vote to go through, a two-thirds majority is needed. It is not yet known when such a vote will take place.

Bonadio's order also ordered the arrest of two of Kirchner's allies: Carlos Zanni, a legal advisor to the former president, and Luis D'Elia, a leader of an Argentinian political organization that was once allied with Kirchner's government. Additionally, Bonadio also ordered the house arrest of Hector Timerman, Kirchner's former Foreign Minister. All three have been taken into custody.

The investigation into the bombing was reopened by Bonadio after special prosecutor Alberto Nisman, a man who publicly claimed that Kirchner conducted negotiations with Iran in secret to cover up the involvement of Iranian officials in the bombing, was found dead [Guardian report] in 2015, just five days after making the accusations [JURIST report] and hours before he was scheduled to testify before Congress on his findings. Nisman was found dead in his Buenos Aries apartment with a .22 caliber pistol and a bullet casing next to his body. Although the preliminary investigation ruled the death a suicide, a later Argentinan border police report stated that Nisman was attacked by two individuals who drugged him before killing him and staging the scene to make it appear as though he had killed himself.

Kirchner has responded to the order by calling it both outrageous and a judicial overreach.

Kirchner has faced numerous legal troubles since leaving office. In March Bonadio ordered [JURIST report] Kirchner to stand trial in a multi-billion dollar fraud case. Kirchner was indicted [JURIST report] in December 2016 on allegations of corruption, accused of illicit association and fraudulent administration in connection with the use of funds meant for public works. In 2015, a judge in Argentina dismissed [JURIST report] the original criminal allegations against Kirchner for the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center. In February, an Argentine prosecutor asked a court to investigate [JURIST report] Kirchner's successor, Maurico Marci, and other government officials over a deal the national government made with a company owned by Macri's family.

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