As Case Against Argentine President Moves Forward, Top Officials Close Ranks

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Kirchner speaks during a ceremony with provincial governors, in Buenos Aires, on January 30, 2015. Credit: AFP

REUTERS - Top government officials rallied behind Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez on Saturday after a state prosecutor said he would keep investigating accusations that she tried to cover up Iran's involvement in the 1994 AMIA bombing.

The allegations have plunged Fernandez's last year in office into turmoil at a time her leftist government is already grappling with an economy teetering on the brink of recession.

On Friday, state investigator Gerardo Pollicita formally reiterated the accusations leveled against Fernandez a month ago by his colleague Alberto Nisman. Nisman was found dead, with a single bullet in his head, on January 18, a day before he was to detail further evidence for his accusations to Congress.

Fernandez has denounced the accusations she conspired to whitewash Nisman's findings in return for economic favors from Iran as "absurd." Her ministers have said his case was flawed and part of an opposition plot to unseat the president.

Anibal Fernandez, the president's chief of staff, said Pollicita had merely regurgitated Nisman's claims in his own 60-page document released on Friday.

"They haven't managed to stand any of it up," Anibal Fernandez, who is not related to the president, told Radio 10. "The first 50 pages are 'copy paste' from the heap that Nisman presented."

Another senior official, Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich called the case "an ongoing legal coup."

If a judge decides there is enough evidence to proceed with the case, the investigation could lead to a trial. For Fernandez to be arrested while in office, Congress, which is dominated by Fernandez's allies, would have to lift her immunity. The judge assigned to the case was returning early from his vacations in neighbouring Uruguay, local media reported.

Iran's government has repeatedly denied any involvement in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.

Argentina's judiciary is set to come under intense scrutiny in the weeks ahead. Many Argentines have grown weary of grand-scale corruption and the apparent impunity of senior officials in past decades.

It is still not known if Nisman shot himself or was killed. President Fernandez says he was tricked by rogue state security agents who harbored a deep grudge against her.

The Nisman scandal has sent shockwaves through Argentina eight months ahead of the Oct. 25 presidential election and may bolster support for the opposition among swing voters. Fernandez is constitutionally barred from a third consecutive term and will lose her immunity when she leaves office.

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