By Hugh Bronstein
Last month’s court decision that cleared Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez of charges that she tried to derail the investigation into a deadly 1994 bombing was upheld by an appeals court on Thursday.
The late Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman had accused Fernandez of trying to cover up Iran’s alleged involvement in the truck bombing of the AMIA Jewish Community center in Buenos Aires. He alleged that she attempted to whitewash the attack in order to clinch a grains-for-oil deal with Tehran.
A court cleared the two-term president of the charge last month and Iran denies any involvement in the bombing.
The judges who make up Argentina’s Federal Appeals Chamber voted 2-1 to reject the appeal “due to lack of evidence” against Fernandez, according to the official ruling. A second attempt at re-opening the case could be made to another appeals court, or brought directly to Argentina’s Supreme Court.
Nisman was found shot dead in his apartment on Jan. 18, four days after lodging his complaint against Fernandez. His mysterious death spawned a slew of conspiracy theories, some involving Fernandez, whose last months in office could be overshadowed by the case.
Nisman’s death has weighed on the popularity of the 62-year-old leader, who is constitutionally barred from running for a third term in the October general election.
The government last week made accusations that Nisman received salary kick-backs from the IT specialist who had been working with him on his original investigation into the AMIA bombing.
Fernandez’s cabinet chief said Nisman spent the embezzled money on champagne, women and lavish vacations. The accusation prompted outrage from the opposition, adding fuel to a scandal that has rocked Argentina for more than two months.
Polls show the Nisman case has increased voters’ thirst for political change starting in December, when the next president is sworn in. The increasing pro-change sentiment has mostly benefited presidential candidate Mauricio Macri, the mayor of Buenos Aires.
Macri and other leading presidential hopefuls are seen as more orthodox than Fernandez, whose trade and currency controls have slowed the economy to a crawl while inflation stays in the double digits.