Interpol put five Iranians and a Lebanese man on its most-wanted list Wednesday in connection with a 1994 bombing that killed 85 people at a Jewish community center in Argentina.
Iranian delegates said the annual Interpol general assembly in Morocco voted 78-14, with 26 abstentions, to issue wanted notices for the six suspects.
“We have achieved something that we have been hoping for for a long time,” said Alberto Nisman, the chief Argentine prosecutor in the case.
Argentine prosecutors alleged that Iranian officials orchestrated the bombing in Buenos Aires — Argentina’s worst terror attack — and entrusted the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah with carrying it out.
No one has been convicted in Argentina in connection with the blast, in which a van stuffed with explosives leveled the seven-story Jewish center and shook Argentina’s 200,000-strong Jewish community.
The Interpol vote became embroiled in Iran’s broader tensions with the West, which stem in part from suspicions that Tehran is seeking to build nuclear weapons.
Iranian envoys had strongly objected to the wanted notices, accusing Israel and the United States of turning the international police agency into a political tool.
The six wanted notices are for former Iranian intelligence chief Ali Fallahian; Mohsen Rabbani, former cultural attache at the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires; former diplomat Ahmad Reza Asghari; Mohsen Rezaei, former leader of the elite Revolutionary Guards; Ahmad Vahidi, a general in the Revolutionary Guards; and Hezbollah militant Imad Moughnieh, one of the world’s most sought-after terror suspects.
Moughnieh, whose whereabouts are unknown, is wanted for his alleged role in the kidnapping of Westerners in Lebanon in the 1980s, and suicide attacks on the U.S. Embassy and a Marine base in Lebanon that killed more than 260 Americans.
The Interpol decision would not force countries to arrest or extradite the suspects.
Nisman said the wanted notices would be put in place immediately.
He rejected Iranian claims that the vote was political, saying: “this is a police matter.”
“We don’t have anything against the government of Iran or the people of Iran,” he said.
Iran delegates object to notices
In March, Interpol’s executive committee backed Argentina’s request to put out red notices for the six. Iran objected, which sent the issue to a general assembly vote.
In Marrakech, Iranian delegates lobbied counterparts, mainly from African and Asian countries, by handing out dossiers written in several languages and explaining their case.
Among their arguments: Argentina’s investigation was flawed, if not corrupt; some witnesses cited in that investigation were themselves wanted by Interpol; Iran quickly condemned the bombings; a bilateral resolution would be better.
Mohammad Ali Pakshir, a legal adviser in Iran’s delegation, claimed that the United States and Israel “want Interpol to issue the red notices to be able to tell the world ’Look, they are terrorists.”’
Delegates from the United States, Argentina and Israel declined comment before the vote, with some saying they did not want to be drawn into Iran’s accusations about politicizing the issue.