BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – A federal judge in Argentina accused former president Cristina Fernandez of treason and called for her arrest for trying to cover up Iran's possible role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center that killed 85 people, a court judgment said.
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 Fernandez's foreign minister, Héctor Timerman, said the 491-page ruling.
Fernández and Timerman have previously denied having acted wrong. Fernández convened a press conference at 4:30 p.m. local time (1930 GMT). Timerman's attorney could not be contacted immediately for comment.
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.
The cases involving Fernandez and his allies have increased, with several arrests and high profile accusations in recent months, after Mauricio Macri, the center-right mayor of Buenos Aires, was elected president at the end of 2015. Fernandez has high rejection rates in Argentina and left office only a few months before Congress in neighboring Brazil accused another leftist leader, Dilma Rousseff.
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.
Zannini's lawyer, Alejandro Baldin, told local media that his client's detention was "arbitrary, illegal and violated constitutional and individual rights," after leaving a police station in Río Gallegos, where he is being held. Zannini
D & # 39; Elia's lawyer, Adrian Albor, told Del Plata radio that Bonadio did not respect the law, rights and justice. "They come for everyone in the previous government."
An Argentine court of appeals 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.
UNTIL THE CONGRESS
Bonadio wrote in his ruling 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 crime of treason is punishable by 10 to 25 years in prison, the maximum sentence in Argentina. The next step would be an oral trial and the sentences can be appealed in the first instance, which could be a long process.
The leader of Macri in the Senate, Federico Pinedo, said on Twitter that Congress would analyze the request to strip immunity "with sincerity and responsibility".
The Argentine legislature entered a period of judicial recess until March but issues can be called for urgent matters.
Macri's coalition performed better than expected on October 22 in the midterm elections, 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 charged 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, Nicolas Misculin and Caroline Stauffer; Edition by Chizu Nomiyama and Steve Orlofsky