A judge in Argentina accused former President Mauricio Macri of illegally spying on relatives of sailors killed in a 2017 submarine accident.
In a 171-page indictment issued Wednesday, Judge Martin Bava wrote that there was enough evidence to bring the 62-year-old Macri to trial, arguing that he was ultimately responsible for spying against the families of 44 crew members who died on board. liner. The submarine of the Navy “San Juan”.
Mr. Bava also banned Mr. Macri from leaving Argentina and ordered the freezing of Mr. Macri’s assets worth nearly $ 1 million. If convicted, Mr. Macri could face up to 10 years in prison.
The indictment is the latest in a long series of prosecutions against former Argentine officials in a judiciary that experts see as highly politicized and behind the scenes.
This came a few weeks after Mr. Macri’s coalition performed surprisingly well in the midterm elections.
Macri, who ruled Argentina from 2015 to 2019, has long denied any wrongdoing on the matter. His lawyer, Pablo Lanusse, promised to appeal.
The former president argued that Judge Bava should withdraw from the case, arguing that he is fulfilling the will of the current government, which is headed by rivals.
“This is political persecution,” Macri told reporters on Wednesday.
Several former Argentine officials have been prosecuted since leaving office. Judges, who play a role similar to that of the American attorney, often aggressively persecute politicians who have lost power.
The charges against Mr. Macri came less than a week after a series of legal victories for Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, a former president who faced numerous corruption cases during Mr. Macri’s years in power.
In October, a court dismissed a criminal case against Ms Kirchner in which she accused her of conspiring with Iran to cover up Iran’s alleged involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.
Mr Macri’s allies made great strides in the midterm elections last month, breaking the ruling coalition’s control of the Senate. This means that the coalition will no longer have enough seats to pass legislation without the need to attract broader support.
Mr Macri accused Mr Bava of trying to expedite the indictment so that it could take place before the November 14 mid-term elections.
In the indictment, Mr. Bava compared the alleged espionage of the sailors’ relatives to “the darkest times of our country,” referring to the military dictatorship of 1976-1983.
Many family members sharply criticized the government’s response to the disappearance of San Juan during a routine patrol off the coast of Patagonia on November 15, 2017.
According to Mr. Bava, intelligence agents infiltrated family meetings and took part in protests to gather information about their activities.
Family members often said that they thought something was wrong because officials always seemed to be one step ahead of them, sometimes they seemed to know the questions they asked in meetings.
“These people didn’t demand anything but justice, and they didn’t seek anything but to find out what happened to their loved ones,” Mr. Bava wrote. “It cannot be assumed that their demands posed a threat to internal security, national defense, or the security of the president.”
Mr. Bava has indicted several other former officials in this case, including Gustavo Arribas, who headed the Federal Intelligence Agency during Mr. Macri’s rule.
“This is not a happy day,” said Valeria Carreras, a lawyer representing a group of family members. “This is the day that confirms what we already knew.”
The disappearance of the submarine attracted worldwide attention and led to a massive search and rescue operation involving teams from 18 countries.
The wreckage of the San Juan was discovered almost a year before the day it disappeared, suggesting that it exploded near the ocean floor.