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Argentine Judge seeks arrest of former President Fernández

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – A federal judge in Argentina formally accused the arrest of former President Cristina Fernandez on Thursday for trying to cover up Iran's possible role in the bombing of a Jewish community center in 1994 that killed 85 people , a court ruling said.

Former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner gestures during a swearing-in ceremony for senators in the Argentine Senate in Buenos Aires, November 29, 2017. REUTERS / Marcos Brindicci

As Fernández is a senator, Congress would first have to vote to deprive her of parliamentary immunity for an arrest to occur. The judge, Claudio Bonadio, also accused and ordered the house arrest of Fernández's foreign minister, Héctor Timerman, according to the ruling.

Fernández and Timerman have previously denied having acted wrong.

Although the immunity of congressional officials in Argentina is rare, Congress voted on October 25 for Fernandez's former planning minister, Julio De Vido, and was arrested on the same day. De Vido is accused of fraud and corruption, which he denies.

Earlier Thursday, two lower-level allies of Fernandez were arrested based on the same ruling by Bonadio: Carlos Zannini, a legal adviser, and Luis D & # 39; Elia, the leader of a group of protesters allied with his government.

An Argentine court of appeal a year ago ordered the reopening of an investigation into the possibility of a cover-up in connection with the bombing. In January 2015, the prosecutor who initially made the accusation, Alberto Nisman, was found shot to death in the bathroom of his apartment in Buenos Aires.

The death was classified as a suicide, although an officer investigating the case has said that the shooting seems to be a homicide. Nisman's body was discovered hours before informing Congress about the bombing of the center.

Nisman said Fernandez worked behind the scenes to clean up Iran and normalize relations to achieve a grain-for-oil agreement with Tehran.

Bonadio wrote that the evidence in the case showed that Iran, with the help of Argentine citizens, seemed to have achieved its objective of avoiding being declared a "terrorist" state by Argentina.

The leader of President Mauricio Macri in the Senate, Federico Pinedo, said on Twitter that Congress would analyze the request to strip immunity "with sincerity and responsibility".

The Argentine Congress entered into a period of judicial recess but may be convened by the president for urgent matters.

The center-right Macri coalition performed better than expected in the mid-term elections on October 22, winning seats in Congress. Fernandez, a left-wing populist who governed from 2007 to 2015, finished second behind an ally of Macri in a Senate race in the province of Buenos Aires, but won a seat under Argentina's roster system.

She was also accused in late 2016 on corruption charges with her public works secretary. Fernandez admitted that there may have been corruption in his government, but personally denies any wrongdoing.

Information from Jorge Otaola, Eliana Raszewski and Caroline Stauffer; Edition of Chizu Nomiyama and Steve Orlofsky

Our standards: The principles of trust of Thomson Reuters.

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