Top Argentina police are linked to bombing of Jews

Announcing the indictments of the commissioner, two deputy commissioners and a retired inspector with the Buenos Aires provincial police, Judge Juan Galeano said July 31 that the four had been placed in preventive custody.

A leader of the Buenos Aires Jewish community commended Galeano's action as a major breakthrough in the investigation of the July 18, 1994, bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Association, also known as AMIA, which left 86 dead and more than 300 wounded.

Ruben Beraja, president of the Argentine Jewish umbrella organization DAIA, said, "Galeano's decision shows decisiveness and is a step toward the restoration of trust in our judiciary."

The four under indictment — Commissioner Juan Jose Ribelli, deputy commissioners Raul Ibarra and Irineo Leal and former Inspector Mario Barreiro — also face separate charges of extortion and kidnapping.

Galeano said the four are accused of providing the Renault van used in the car-bombing.

Investigators said the four headed a ring of police officials that gave protection to stolen-car dealers and that traded in stolen vehicles themselves.

Eamon Mullen, one of the prosecutors in the case, said, "There are serious grounds for presuming that these people knew who they were providing the van to or that they are actually linked with those who carried out the attack."

Six other police arrested last month in connection with the AMIA blast face lesser charges and remain under arrest.

The Argentine government has come under constant fire from Jewish officials here and abroad for its inability to find those responsible for the AMIA attack.

The March 17, 1992, bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, which left 29 dead and some 100 wounded, also remains unsolved.

Jewish officials have cited incompetence, corruption and anti-Semitism among security and government officials as causes for the Argentine government's inability to solve either case.

In recent weeks, Argentine police officials began to suspect involvement in the AMIA attack after the investigation of the case exposed an extensive ring of police officials allegedly involved in selling stolen cars, explosives and weapons.