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Saturday, September 04, 2004

Surprise. Argentina acquits 5 charged with bombing of Jewish center

Haaretz: BUENOS AIRES - A federal court acquitted five men of charges of being accessories to the July 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center here, the deadliest terrorist attack on Argentine soil, which claimed 85 lives and injured some 300 people.

In a nationally televised verdict, a three-judge panel cleared four former provincial police officers and a former used car salesman accused of supplying the van used in the attack. Judge Miguel Pons read the long-awaited verdict, which cleared the suspects of all major charges after a nearly three-year-long trial - the longest in Argentine history.

The masterminds of the attack were never identified.

Jewish and Argentine officials have charged the community center bombing was linked to Islamic fundamentalists and pro-Iranian terrorists, charges denied by Tehran repeatedly. After failing in efforts to extradite Iranian suspects wanted in the case, investigators have instead focused on what has been called "the local connection."

[This] was the second of two bombings targeting Jews in Argentina during the 1990s. A March 1992 blast destroyed the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29 people in a case that remains unsolved.