Argentina's Lower House on Tuesday moved one step closer to passing a bill to elevate proceedings into the 1994 AMIA bombing to trial, with plans to try Iranian defendants "in abstentia".
The decision at committee level to take a bill to the floor came as Argentina tomorrow commemorates the 25th anniversary of the attack on the country's largest Jewish cultural center, which left 85 dead and hundreds injured.
Investigations into the bombing and a parallel investigation into the cover-up of local complicity in the terror attack, including police and high-ranking former government officials, have long disappointed groups of victims and victims' families, with few people having been brought to justice.
The Lower House's Criminal Legislation Committee on Tuesday afternoon voted in favour of taking a bill to the floor for further debate, with the ruling PRO party and its coalition allies the Coalición Civica supporting it with the support of some Argentina Federal committee members.
"If they were really interested in finding truth and justice, they should start assigning resources to investigations and not wasting their time on laws that don't do anything", victims' group activist Diana Malamud told Perfil last week.
Committee president Daniel Lipovetsky disagreed, citing similar cases involving crimes committed in Argentina.
"The Supreme Court has already validated previous in abstentia trials like the one against [dictatorship-era human rights criminal] Alfedo Astiz when he was tried in abstentia in France for the crime against the French nuns", he told Perfil, in reference to the 1977 disappearance of Léonie Duquet and Alice Domon. Lipovetsky also cited trials in Italy against Nazi bosses like Erich Priekbe, whom Argentina subsequently extradited.
"The bill gives the fugitive a public defence lawyer as well as the possible revision of the sentence if he presents himself," he added.
In February, former federal judge Juan José Galeano was jailed for his role in the cover-up of the AMIA bombing, while former president Carlos Menem was acquitted.
A dozen other people were also acquitted of charges relating to allegations that Menem and other government officials tried to divert attention in the bombing investigation away from a Syrian businessman who was a Menem family friend.
Galeano was handed six years in prison for concealment and violation of evidence by the court.
Former intelligence chief Hugo Anzorreguy was also sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail for his role in the cover-up.
No-one has ever been convicted of the bombing, though Argentina – and Israel – have long pointed the finger at Tehran, implicating several former Iranian officials. They suspect a Lebanese Hezbollah operative of carrying out the suicide bombing on Tehran's orders. Iran's government denies any involvement in the attack and has refused to turn over those people sought for trial in Argentina.
The bombing investigation was plagued by irregularities according to a court ruling in 2004, which acquitted a number of people who had been charged as part of an alleged "local connection" in the attack.