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Argentina asks Russia to arrest Iranian official over 1994 Jewish center bombing

Ali Akbar Velayati, an advisor to Iran's Supreme leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei
AFP

An Argentinian federal judge has asked Russian authorities to arrest a top aide to Iran’s supreme leader in connection with the deadly 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.

Ali Akbar Velayati, an international affairs adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is currently in Moscow where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.

Velayati, who served as Iran’s foreign minister at the time of the attack, has had an international warrant out for his arrest since 2006 on suspicion that he ordered the bombing of the Argentine Jewish Charities Federation (AMIA) that left 85 people dead and 300 others injured in the worst attack of its kind in the South American country.

After news broke of Velayati’s visit to Moscow, Argentine federal Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral, who is investigating Iranian involvement in the attack, requested his arrest.

Argentina made similar requests for Velayati’s arrest to Singapore and Malaysia in 2016, but was unsuccessful.

AP Photo/Alejandro Pagni, File

Velayati and seven other Iranian officials are wanted in connection to the 1994 bombing. Iran is also suspected to have been behind the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, which killed 29 and injured 242.

The AMIA bombing was followed by accusations of a government cover-up by then-Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and other figures close to the government who allegedly protected high-ranking officials from prosecution over the attack in exchange for oil and other trade benefits.

The lead prosecutor investigating the alleged cover-up, Alberto Nisman, was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head just hours before he was due to present his case in what was initially deemed a suicide. After a lengthy probe, federal investigators concluded Nisman had been murdered.

Velayati’s visit to Moscow overlapped with that of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also met with Putin on Wednesday seeking a withdrawal of Iranian forced from Syria.

Velayati brushed off finding himself in the Russian capital at the same time as the leader of Iran's arch-rival.

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