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por Henrique Burnay, em 02.12.06
By Mayra Pertossi  

The Associated Press — A court on Friday declared former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani and eight others fugitives from justice in Argentina, where they are wanted in connection with the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center.

Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral said the nine must be considered fugitives for failing to respond to arrest warrants he issued earlier this month, when he said he had "serious" evidence of the suspects' involvement in the attack.

Some 85 people were killed and more than 200 were injured 12 years ago when a bomb exploded in a van outside the seven-story AMIA center in the capital of Buenos Aires.

Iran has denied any involvement and has said it does not recognize the validity of the arrest warrants. It said it would oppose any attempt to detain the former president or other Iranian citizens.

Canicoba Corral also ordered the state public defender's office to represent Rafsanjani and the others because they have not named their own attorney.

Chief prosecutor Alberto Nisman has alleged that the decision to attack the Jewish center was made in 1993 "by the highest authorities" in Tehran, and that the attack itself was entrusted to the militant group Hezbollah.

The destruction of the AMIA center, symbol of a Jewish population numbering more than 200,000, was the second of two attacks targeting Jews in Argentina in the 1990s. In 1992, a bomb flattened the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29 people in a case that also has been blamed on Hezbollah.

Rafsanjani was Iran's president between 1989 and 1997 is now the head of the Expediency Council, which mediates between the parliament and ruling clerics. The other eight named in the warrants include a former Iranian government and military officials and an ex-security chief for Hezbollah.

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