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Argentine Court Acquits 5 Charged in Connection With Bombing of Buenos Aires Jewish Center - 2004-09-03

A court in Argentina Thursday acquitted five men charged in connection with a deadly 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish community center.

Judge Miguel Pons read the verdict to a packed court house, acquitting four former police officers and another man, all accused of helping to carry out the July 18, 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israeli Mutual Aid Association (AMIA), a Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires. The attack killed 85 people and injured some 300.

The three-year trial was the longest and most expensive in Argentine history and with Thursday's acquittal, Argentine investigators are back at square one, no one has ever been convicted for the crime, one of the deadliest acts of anti-Semitism since World War II.

Laura Ginsberg lost her husband Jose in the AMIA bombing. She says she and her two children still struggle every day to deal with the impact of the attack. She says the acquittal is another example of Argentina's lack of justice.

What we just heard wasn't only a loss for us, it was also a reinforcement of the impunity that exists in Argentina, she says. They just let the bunch of guys who were responsible for the AMIA massacre ten years ago out on to the street. The impunity here was finally confirmed. This is not an advancement of justice even though for sure all the people who speak after me are going to say that new lines of investigations are going to be opened and they are going to promise a new fair trial - but we already had all the concrete proof needed in this trial that finished.

Argentina has long contended that Iranian-backed extremist groups carried out the attack, a charge that Tehran has repeatedly denied. Last year, Argentine officials failed in their attempt to extradite an Iranian diplomat for questioning and have since pinned their hopes on a local conviction, a hope that was quashed by Thursday's acquittal.