In landmark ruling, Argentine court says Iran and Hezbollah were responsible for 1994 Jewish center bombing

World News

(JR) — An Argentine court has ruled that Iran and Hezbollah were behind the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, a landmark development in the reckoning over the antisemitic attack that may open the door to international legal action.

In a nearly 800-page ruling, the country’s highest criminal court said on Thursday that Iran directed the 1994 bombing of AMIA, which killed 85 people, and defined the attack as “a crime against humanity” and Iran as “a terrorist state.” The bombing was, at the time, the deadliest single attack on Jews since the Holocaust. It came two years after a bombing at the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires killed 29.

Controversy over the bombing, and who is culpable for it, has roiled Argentina’s politics and legal system for decades. 

In 2015, Alberto Nisman, a Jewish prosecutor, was found dead in his apartment shortly before he was to present evidence that the country’s then-president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, had covered up Iran’s role in the attack. In 2013, Kirchner had signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran that allowed Iran and Argentina to jointly investigate the attack.

An official report found in 2017 that Nisman was murdered. Kirchner later served as Argentina’s vice president from 2019 to 2023 and was convicted on separate corruption charges shortly before leaving office, which she was expected to appeal.

Argentina has South America’s largest Jewish population, at more than 200,000. Jorge Knoblovits, president of the Argentine Jewish umbrella organization DAIA, welcomed the ruling in a statement. 

“We must applaud these judges, who have had courage and probity,” he said, noting that the ruling “opens the possibility of a lawsuit in the International Criminal Court.”

Argentina’s new president, Javier Milei, is a Catholic who has called Judaism a source of his values and embraced Israel, which is currently in hostilities with Iran and Hezbollah. In a statement, his office praised the ruling.

“The office of the president welcomes the ruling … that puts an end to decades of postponement and cover-up in the AMIA case,” Milei’s office said, adding that Milei has “asserted the absolute independence of the judiciary,” allowing the court “to exercise its function with total freedom, without political pressure, to deliver the justice that both victims and their families have been waiting for for decades.”

The ruling came months after the U.S. Justice Department charged a dual Colombian-Lebanese citizen with playing a key role in the bombing. According to the Justice Department, the suspect, Samuel Salman El Reda, 58, has been a Hezbollah operative since 1993. He was charged with providing material support to a designated terrorist organization.