BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - An Argentine prosecutor accused Iran on Wednesday of establishing terrorist networks in Latin America dating back to the 1980s and said he would send his findings to courts in the affected countries.
State prosecutor Alberto Nisman is investigating the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people. Argentine courts have long accused Iran of sponsoring the attack.
Iran, which remains locked in a stand-off with world powers over its disputed nuclear program, denies links to the blast. No one was immediately available to comment at the Iranian embassy in Buenos Aires on Wednesday.
In a 500-page-long document, Nisman cited what he said was evidence of Iran’s “intelligence and terrorist network” in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname - among others.
In the case of the AMIA (Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina) center bombing in Buenos Aires, Argentina has secured Interpol arrest warrants for nine men - eight Iranians and one person presumed to be Lebanese. Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi is among the officials sought by Argentina, which is home to Latin America’s largest Jewish community.
Another Iranian with an outstanding arrest warrant against him in the case is Mohsen Rezaie, a former head of the Revolutionary Guards who is running for president.
Nisman said new evidence underscored the responsibility of Mohsen Rabbani, the former Iranian cultural attache in Argentina, as mastermind of the AMIA bombing and “coordinator of the Iranian infiltration of South America, especially in Guyana.”
Nisman said U.S. court documents showed Islamist militant Abdul Kadir - who was sentenced to life in prison in 2010 for participating in a foiled plan to attack John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York - was Rabbani’s disciple.
Kadir “received instructions” from Rabbani “and carried out the Iranian infiltration in Guyana, whose structure was nearly identical ... to that established by Rabbani in Argentina,” the prosecutor wrote.
Nisman urged Interpol to intensify its efforts to execute the arrest warrants.
In February, Argentina’s Congress approved an agreement with Iran to set up a “truth commission” to shed light on the AMIA bombing after years of legal deadlock. But many Argentine Jewish community leaders feared the pact could undermine the ongoing judicial investigation, led by Nisman.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez has close ties with other Latin American leaders who are on good terms with Tehran, such as Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa.
Her government had no immediate comment on Nisman’s report, which reinforced concerns voiced by Jewish leaders in Buenos Aires about the Argentine-Iranian commission.
The forming of the commission was seen as a diplomatic win for Iran as it confronts a U.S.-led effort to isolate Tehran because of its nuclear program, which Western nations fear is aimed at attaining nuclear weapons.
Also on Wednesday, Canada said it will freeze all remaining trade with Iran to protest the Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and its human rights record.
Writing by Hilary Burke and Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Paul Simao