Top House lawmakers have petitioned the Argentinian president to reverse a decision barring a senior government prosecutor from testifying before the U.S. Congress about Iran’s role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s government refused to permit General Prosecutor Alberto Nisman from testifying in the United States about the 1994 AMIA bombing, an Iranian-orchestrated terror plot known as one of the deadliest attacks in Argentina’s history.
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Argentina’s decision to bar Nisman from testifying before the U.S. Congress prompted House Homeland Security Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R., Texas) and Rep. Jeff Duncan (R., S.C.) to petition Kirchner directly.
The lawmakers expressed "deep concern" over Kirchner’s decision, warning that it demonstrates a willingness to do damage control on behalf of the Iranian regime, which has significantly boosted its presence in Latin America.
"The decision to deny authorization for Mr. Nisman to testify before the U.S. Congress does call into question the authenticity of your intentions, and we are deeply disturbed," McCaul and Duncan wrote to Kirchner on July 3, ahead of a hearing scheduled to take place on Tuesday afternoon this week.
"We respectfully request that you reconsider this issue in light of regional security interests and allow Mr. Nisman to share with members of Congress the results of his work," the lawmakers wrote.
Nisman was invited to share his findings about Iran’s role in the AMIA bombing and discuss Tehran’s growing influence in the Western hemisphere, particularly in places such as Argentina and Venezuela.
"Mr. Nisman was invited to share the findings from his October 2006 and May 2013 investigations into the AMIA bombings, which placed responsibility for the attacks on the highest authorities within the Government of Iran," the lawmakers wrote. " Furthermore, his investigation underscored a critical issue to U.S. homeland security, showing that Iran was "the main sponsor" of an attempted attack in June 2007 on American soil to blow up John F. Kennedy (JFK) airport in Queens, N.Y."
Nisman informed McCaul that he was not permitted to attend the hearing on July 9.
Nisman said that senior government officials told him the Congressional hearing "has no relation to the official mission of the General Attorney’s Office, and, therefore, under those grounds, the permission was denied by the highest Argentine competent authority with legally binding capacity to provide the needed endorsement to allow my testimony before the authorities of a foreign country."
McCaul said in a statement that Kirchner’s government is preventing Congress from learning the full extent of Iran’s presence in the Western hemisphere.
Nisman’s investigation into the AMIA bombing "shows that the Iranian presence in the Western Hemisphere is greater than we imagined," McCaul said. "Iranian infiltration within countries in our region presents a clear and present danger to our homeland, as do attempts to silence or downplay this threat, and Mr. Nisman’s testimony should be heard."
Duncan also condemned Argentina’s action.
"Argentina’s decision to deny Nisman permission to share his findings publicly sends a troubling message and is deeply disturbing to regional security and U.S. homeland security," the lawmaker said in a statement.
Argentinian and Jewish observers have cited Kirchner for downplaying the AMIA investigation in an attempt to placate the Iranian regime.
"Argentina’s president is undermining her own country’s prosecutors, who have for several years tried to pursue the suspected perpetrators," an Argentinian newspaper opinion editor Fabian Bosoer and New School associate professor Federico Finchelstein wrote in a March New York Times op-ed. "Many observers have denounced Mrs. Kirchner for giving Iran a free pass."
Iran’s presence in the region has grown in recent years.
Iran has laundered billions of dollars through Venezuela over the years and used the country as a base to plot terror attacks.
The Iranian terror proxy group Hezbollah is also believed to operate freely in the region, where it frequently partners with drug traffickers.