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Ex-Interpol Chief Says Ready To Testify For Argentina's Fernandez In Iran Case

Former Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez - File photo

(Reuters) - Argentina's previous government never asked Interpol to drop arrest warrants against a group of Iranians accused of bombing a Jewish center, the ex-head of the police agency said on Wednesday, as the government proceeded with treason charges against the former president.

Former Interpol chief Ronald Noble said in an email on Wednesday that he wants to testify that the government of former President Cristina Fernandez did not ask to have the arrest warrants lifted as part of a "memorandum" she had with Iran.

If a judge allows Noble to testify, the treason case filed this month against Fernandez and 11 other top officials could crumble. She denies wrongdoing and calls the charge politically motivated.

The arrest warrants "were not affected in their validity by the approval of the memorandum," Noble said in an email to a federal appeals court that was seen by Reuters. The Fernandez administration "always expressed its belief that the warrants should remain in effect," the email said.

The accusation that the Fernandez government worked behind the scenes to clear the accused bombers of the AMIA Jewish community center in order to improve trade between Argentina and Iran is at the heart of a charge of treason brought against Fernandez.

She served as president for eight years before being succeeded by Mauricio Macri in 2015.

Others agreed that the treason charge against Fernandez appeared questionable.

"The indictment by Judge Claudio Bonadio of former President Fernandez, her Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, and 10 others, for 'treason' and 'concealment' points to no evidence that would seem to substantiate those charges," Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Tuesday.

The allegations against Fernandez drew international attention in January 2015, when the prosecutor who initially made them, Alberto Nisman, was found shot dead in the bathroom of his Buenos Aires apartment. An Argentine appeals court ordered the re-opening of the investigation a year ago.

Nisman's death was classified a suicide, though an official investigating the case has said the shooting appeared to be a homicide. Nisman's body was discovered hours before he was to brief Congress on the 1994 bombing of the AMIA center.

Nisman said Fernandez worked behind the scenes to clear Iran of any wrongdoing and normalize relations to clinch a grains-for-oil deal with Tehran that was signed in 2013. The "memorandum" agreement created a joint commission to investigate the AMIA bombing that critics said was really a means to absolve Iran.