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Argentinians travel to Fresh Meadows to protest Iran prez

The deadliest bombing in Argentina’s history has led a group of the country’s residents to Fresh Meadows this week, where they will be staying while protesting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presence at the United Nations General Assembly.

Olga Degtiar, Daniel Komarovsky and Barbara Komarovsky traveled from their hometown of Buenos Aires to Queens Monday to pressure Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner, who was slated to speak at the General Assembly Wednesday, to denounce the Iranian Parliament’s decision in August to approve the nomination of a suspect in the 1994 bombing of Argentina’s Jewish community epicenter as Iran’s new defense minister.

“We are also going to leave a letter with [United Nations Secretary General] Ban Ki-moon and for all the countries asking the Iranian president not be allowed in the Assembly,” Daniel Komarovsky said through a translator and friend of his daughter Barbara, Yamila Simonovsky.

Daniel and Barbara Komarovsky and Degtiar are staying at civic leader Bob Harris’ house in Fresh Meadows. The three Argentinians were connected with Harris and his wife Edna because the Harris’ rabbi at Hillcrest Jewish Center, Manes Kogan, is from Argentina.

Eighty-five people died in the attack on the Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina, the center of Jewish life in the South American country, including Degtiar’s 21-year-old son, Cristian. More than 300 were injured. It was the deadliest bombing in Argentina’s history and the majority of the victims were younger than 25.

Ahmad Vahidi, who was nominated for the position of defense minister by Ahmadinejad, is wanted by the International Criminal Police Organization in connection with the bombing. Vahidi commanded the Quds Force, a unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, at the time of the attack.

Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor who is leading the investigation into the bombing, told the Associated Press in August that Vahidi has been charged with “being a key participant in the planning and of having made the decision to go ahead with the attack against the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association.”

Nisman has formally accused the Iranian government with directing the bombing and the Hezbollah militia of carrying it out.

The attack forever changed Degtiar’s life: She lost her son, a third-year law student with a passion for human rights.

Cristian Degtiar worked in AMIA’s political organization, the Israeli Delegation in Argentina, and was conducting a research project focusing on anti-Semitism in Argentina, home to South America’s largest Jewish population.

Upon arriving at the scene of the bombing, Degtiar said she would not let herself believe her son had been killed.

“My husband threw himself to the floor, and he felt everything was done for us,” Degtiar said. “I thought my son had lied and had gone somewhere other than AMIA. It was denial.”

Degtiar and Daniel Komarovsky are part of a group of victims’ families that focuses on reminding the world about the bombing and investigation, which Degtiar said was for years mismanaged and fraught with corruption.

Once Nisman took over around 2004, the case quickly evolved, Degtiar said.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

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