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Former Argentina president charged with treason

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Former Argentina president charged with treason

Ex Argentine President and Senator Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Dec. 7
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REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci
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A federal judge has indicted former Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner for treason and demanded her arrest, for allegedly covering up Iranian involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires.

The judge, Claudio Bonadio, also indicted and ordered house arrest for Fernandez's Foreign Minister Hector Timerman.

Kirchner called a news conference in Congress to deny wrongdoing and accuse Bonadio and President Mauricio Macri of degrading the judiciary.

"It is an invented case based on facts that never existed, and on politically motivated judgments. From a legal point of view, this is total nonsense," she told reporters, accusing centre-right President Mauricio Macri of "manipulating" the justice system to "persecute" the opposition.

The judge called on lawmakers to remove Kirchner's immunity, which she gained when she was sworn in as senator just last week. The crime of treason is punishable by 10 to 25 years in prison, Argentina's maximum sentence.

Kirchner and other officials are accused of having worked behind the scenes to cover up Iran's role in the 1994 attack, which killed 85 people and injured 300, in exchange for a potentially lucrative trade deal.

The allegations gained 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. His body was discovered hours before he was to brief Congress on the bombing of the AMIA center.

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