Want to see a real constitutional crisis? Keep your eyes on Argentina, where a judge just indicted former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner for treason. The indictment alleges that Fernandez de Kirchner covered up Iran’s role in a terrorist attack on a Jewish community center in order to benefit politically from an alliance with Tehran.
The only trick will be arresting her:
A federal judge in Argentina indicted former President Cristina Fernandez for treason and asked for her arrest for trying to cover up Iran’s possible role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center that killed 85 people, a court ruling said.
As Fernandez is a senator, Congress would first have to vote to strip her of parliamentary immunity for an arrest to occur. The judge, Claudio Bonadio, also indicted and ordered house arrest for Fernandez’s Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, the 491-page ruling said. …
While removing immunity from congressional officials is rare in Argentina, Congress voted on Oct. 25 to do so for Fernandez’s former planning minister Julio De Vido and he was arrested the same day. De Vido is accused of fraud and corruption, which he denies.
Cases involving Fernandez and her allies have picked up, with several high profile arrests and indictments in recent months, after Mauricio Macri, the center-right mayor of Buenos Aires, was elected president in late 2015.
Somewhere, in a far better place, Alberto Nisman is smiling. The Argentinian prosecutor had conducted a massive investigation into then-president Fernandez de Kirchner and her alleged role in covering up Iran’s role in the 1994 terrorist attack that killed dozens of people. The day before he was to present his case, Nisman turned up dead — and Fernandez de Kirchner’s government called it a suicide. They also denied that Nisman was about to name the president and close aides as suspects, but both stories fell apart within days:
The 26-page document, which was found in the garbage at Mr. Nisman’s apartment, also sought the arrest of Héctor Timerman, Argentina’s foreign minister. Both Mrs. Kirchner and Mr. Timerman have repeatedly denied Mr. Nisman’s accusation that they tried to reach a secret deal with Iran to lift international arrest warrants for Iranian officials wanted in connection with the bombing.
The new revelation that Mr. Nisman had drafted documents seeking the arrest of the president and the foreign minister illustrates the heightened tensions between the prosecutor and the government before he was found dead on Jan. 18 at his apartment with a gunshot wound to his head. He had been scheduled the next day to provide details before Congress about his accusations against Mrs. Kirchner.
“It would have provoked a crisis without precedents in Argentina,” said Sergio Berensztein, a political analyst, about the impact of the arrest requests if they had been issued. He noted that previous legal cases had shaken Argentina’s political establishment, but he emphasized that this case involved a request to arrest a sitting president.
“It would have been a scandal on a level previously unseen,” Mr. Berensztein said.
Well, it’s going to be seen now.
Nisman’s murder helped propel Macri into office. Since then, the court has painstakingly put together the case that Nisman started, only this time without the organs of state ready to do whatever it took to shut it down. The detailed investigation has also included other corrupt acts by officials in Fernandez de Kirchner’s government, leading to a number of arrests over the last few weeks. All that remains is to seize the woman in charge at the time.
It won’t be easy to do. As the Associated Press points out, it takes a supermajority to strip a sitting member of their legislative immunity from arrest. However, Fernandez de Kirchner does not have immunity from prosecution:
For Fernandez to be arrested, two thirds of the Senate would have to vote to remove her immunity. It’s unclear whether the Senate would move against Fernandez, who is still popular with many Argentines despite mounting legal woes. The Senate usually avoids votes to allow the arrest of colleagues until they have been found guilty.
Even if Fernandez retains immunity, the judge could continue investigating because the protection is only from arrest. Fernandez and the other defendants have several options to appeal, which could drag the case out for years.
Hopefully, Argentinian authorities have relieved Fernandez de Kirchner of her passport. Otherwise, the argument over legislative immunity is likely to be moot. Maybe her partners in terrorism will offer her asylum in Tehran.