Héctor Timerman, 65, Argentine Ex-Foreign Minister Indicted in Iran Deal, Dies
BUENOS AIRES — Héctor Timerman, a former Argentine foreign minister who was charged with treason in 2013 for his role in negotiating an agreement with Iran relating to the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, died on Sunday at his home here. He was 65.
His lawyer, Graciana Peñafort, said the cause was respiratory failure. Mr. Timerman had been under treatment for liver cancer, she said.
“He was very deteriorated physically, and his heart simply did not tolerate any more,” Ms. Peñafort said.
Mr. Timerman was foreign minister under President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner from 2010 until 2015, the year she left office. His tenure was marked by increasing tension between Argentina and the United States. He had served as Argentina’s ambassador in Washington from 2007 to 2010.
The memorandum of understanding that Mr. Timerman signed with Iran in 2013 was billed as an effort to get answers from the Iranians who were accused of carrying out the suicide bombing of the Jewish community center, the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association, or AMIA, in which 85 people were killed and some 300 injured.
The deal, which called for the two countries to set up a joint commission to investigate the bombing, was approved by Congress but later declared unconstitutional. Iran has long denied any involvement in the bombing, for which no one has been convicted.
In 2006, Argentine prosecutors accused top Iranian officials, including former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, as well as Imad Mugniyah, a Lebanese senior commander of the militant group Hezbollah, with being involved in the attack. Mr. Mugniyah was assassinated in 2008, and Mr. Rafsanjani died in 2017.
The federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman characterized the agreement with Iran as part of a cover-up to ensure that Iranians would never face justice. He contended that the memorandum was the first step toward canceling fugitive notices, known as red notices, that had been filed with Interpol, the international police organization; the notices had prevented the suspects from traveling freely.
Shorty after he made the accusation against Mrs. Kirchner and Mr. Timerman, Mr. Nisman, in January 2015, was found dead in his luxury apartment in Buenos Aires with a gunshot wound to the head. The death remains unsolved.
In December 2017, a federal judge, Claudio Bonadio, ordered that Mr. Timerman and several other key officials in Mrs. Kirchner’s government be taken into custody for their role in the agreement with Iran. Mr. Timerman was granted home detention because of his illness.
Judge Bonadio said there was enough evidence to indict Mrs. Kirchner and her former allies for treason because they had sought “impunity for the Iranian nationals accused of the attack on the AMIA headquarters and to normalize relations between the two states.”
Shortly after the judge’s decision, The New York Times published an opinion piece by Mr. Timerman in which he called himself a “political prisoner.”
As part of his indictment, Judge Bonadio also claimed that Ronald K. Noble, an American citizen and a former New York University law professor who led Interpol from 2000 to 2014, was also part of the cover-up.
Mr. Noble has disputed that accusation.
He wrote on Twitter on Sunday that Mr. Timerman had “died under a cloud of false accusations because #Argentina’s judiciary failed to conduct a thorough investigation.”
Also on Twitter, Mrs. Kirchner said that Mr. Timerman, as a Jew, had been particularly interested in making sure that those who carried out the 1994 bombing were brought to justice.
“Héctor got sick due to the pain and suffering provoked by the irrational and unjust attack that we both suffered due to the signing of the memorandum of understanding with Iran,” Mrs. Kirchner wrote.
Mr. Timerman’s efforts to receive medical treatment in the United States were derailed when his American visa was canceled following the indictment. Although the visa was reinstated, allowing him to travel, supporters say the lapse cost him precious time.
“His respiratory issue was the tragic result in the delay of being able to travel to the United States in January 2018,” Ms. Peñafort, his lawyer, said in a text message. “When he finally got to the United States, it was too late to carry out the treatment that would have improved his living conditions in these last months.”
Before joining the government, Mr. Timerman was a journalist, following in the footsteps of his father, Jacobo Timerman, a prominent journalist who was imprisoned and tortured by the brutal military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1976 to 1981. Jacobo Timerman’s case inspired an international human rights furor, which led to his release.
Héctor Timerman was born in Buenos Aires on Dec. 16, 1953. He got his start as a journalist at publications his father helped start. From 1978 to 1984 he lived in exile in the United States, obtaining a master’s degree in international relations from Columbia University in 1981. He became a naturalized American citizen but gave up his citizenship in 2006.
In addition to his work as a journalist, Mr. Timerman was also a human-rights activist and a founder of the human rights group Americas Watch.
He is survived by his wife, Anabel Sielecki, and two daughters, Amanda and Jordana.