Argentina’s Jewish community has boycotted the country’s official Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony in protest at the suspicious death of a top prosecutor.
Alberto Nisman, 51, was found dead at his home last Sunday, having just accused the president of protecting Iranian agents suspected of blowing up the AMIA Jewish centre in 1994. He was due to give evidence in court shortly before he died.
As street protests erupted, public anger was voiced by opposition and Jewish community leaders, who cried foul, after officials were quick to call it “suicide”.
In a coordinated response, the country’s main Jewish organisations – including the Argentinian Jewish Mutual Aid Association (AMIA), the Holocaust Museum of Buenos Aires and the country’s affiliate to the World Jewish Congress (DAIA) – all pulled out of Tuesday’s ceremony.
The move will be acutely embarrassing for President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who Nisman accused of offering immunity to Iranian suspects in exchange for cheap Iranian oil, and for the country, which has a reputation for having been a safe haven for Nazi war criminals, including Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele.
A joint investigation between Argentina and Iran into the 1994 terrorist atrocity, which killed 85 people and wounded 200 more, was widely criticised, and for many in the 300,000-strong Argentinian Jewish community, Nisman’s death was the final straw.
Waldo Wolff, vice-president of the DAIA, said: “The charges are so gruesome and extend to so many areas of government that it would be an insult to the memory of our victims of the Shoah to attend.”
It comes in the same week that ten Jewish backpackers were assaulted and at a hostel in the mountainous southern region of Patagonia. The group, which included Israeli tourists, were staying at the Onda Azul hostel near Puelo Lake, when locals arrived armed with sticks and bottles, hurling anti-Semitic abuse.
On the four-hour ordeal, which included a car chase as several members tried to escape, hostel owner Yoav Pollac said: “They came in throwing stones, smashing windows.”