A federal prosecutor on Friday accused Argentina President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her foreign minister Hector Timerman of orchestrating a cover-up in the case of the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires.
It was the same accusation that had been leveled against Kirchner's government by Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor who handled the AMIA center investigation until he was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment on January 18, a day before formalizing his charges before the country's Congress.
Gerardo Pollicita, the prosecutor assigned to replace Nisman in the inquiry, repeated the claim that supporters of the dead prosecutor have said led to Nisman's death.
Pollicita also ordered the safeguarding of Nisman's case file, and the transcription of 5,000 hours of wiretapped phone calls that Nisman had in his possession at the time of his death, and which he said proved the cover-up plot.
It was a remarkable development for the decades-long scandal that has embroiled the government, placing the Kirchner establishment on the defensive for what Nisman initially said was a plan to "fabricate Iran's innocence" in the Islamic nation's alleged responsibility for the July 18, 1994 attack, which left 85 dead.
Pollicita on Friday seemed to be proceeding more cautiously than Nisman did.
He did not request that Kirchner be questioned over the matter. He also did not order her arrest — which Nisman apparently was preparing to do. A draft of an arrest warrant for President Kirchner was found in the prosecutor's wastebasket after authorities discovered him in his bathroom with a bullet wound to his head.
In addition to Kirchner and her foreign minister, charges were brought against a congressman; the judge who formerly presided over the AMIA case, Hector Yrimia; and four others.
"According to Dr. Nisman," the indictment reads, "the decision to cover up the involvement of suspects of Iranian origin in the terrorist attacks on July 18, 1994 was made by Dr. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner — who holds executive power — and was carried out, primarily, by the foreign relations minister, Mr. Hector Timerman."
Nisman believed that the executive leader arranged the signing of a memorandum of understanding with Iran, to clear Iranian suspects of their responsibility in the bloodiest attack in Argentina's history.
The Kirchner government struck back quickly. Anibal Fernandez, the president's chief of staff (and no relation), called Pollicita's indictment a "clearly anti-democratic maneuver to destabilize" the country.
"Being charged has no judicial value," Fernandez told reporters on Friday. "Here, it seems that saying someone has been charged is the same as saying someone has already been condemned. But that's not the case. It is irrelevant."
Follow Gaston Cavanagh on Twitter @GastonCavanagh.