Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman died less than a week after he accused President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of a cover-up over the deadly 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center.
Police located Nisman’s body with a single gunshot wound in the late night hours yesterday in his Buenos Aires apartment. Security Minister Sergio Berni hinted that Nisman committed suicide based on a pistol and used cartridge found near the body. Yet the prosecutor assigned to investigate Nisman’s death claimed that he had not left a suicide note behind.
The fifty-one-year-old passed away on the eve of scheduled testimony to a legislative committee on his allegations against Kirchner, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and others. Nisman claimed on January 14th that the pair signed a memo of understanding (MOU) with Iran in 2013 in order to protect former government officials suspected of masterminding the bombing. In return for this immunity, Nisman wrote in a 300-page report that Iran was supposed to increase oil and grain exports to the South American country.
“I have been working on this for over two years, because agents of the Intelligence secretary whose names I cannot disclose are involved,” the prosecutor said last week.
Update: "What could have compelled someone to make the terrible decision to take his own life?" asked Kirchner in a lengthy statement issued via Facebook on Monday evening.
The president vehemently defended her government's role in the investigation of the AMIA bombing as well as the MOU signed with Iran nearly two years ago. She also claimed that there is a "very sordid" history behind the investigator's death and criticized numerous "incendiary" headlines in the Clarin daily newspaper.
Eighty-five people died and more than two hundred were injured in what is considered as the worst terrorist attack in Argentina’s history. Argentine courts accused Hezbollah of carrying out the attack that was supposedly financed and planned by Iran. Thus far, nobody has been convicted in connection with the incident that has been officially classified as unsolved.
According to the Attorney General's office preliminary results of the autopsy indicated that Nisman committed suicide. Nevertheless, the timing of his death has raised plenty of eyebrows among opposition politicos and critics of the Kirchner regime.
“I find hard to believe that Nisman killed himself. The guy offs himself prior to testifying before Congress? Come on, boys,” declared journalist Jorge Lanata.
Several government officials including Secretary General to the Presidency Alberto Fernández, Defense Minister Agustín Rossi blasted Nisman in response to his accusations. Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich pointed the finger at a conspiracy seeking to “destabilize the government, in a clear coup attempt.” But in the aftermath of Nisman’s death Kirchner ordered intelligence chief Oscar Parrilli to declassify data on spies purportedly implicated in the AMIA bombing.
Alberto Adrián Gentili was named as the interim successor to Nisman who had been investigating the AMIA incident since 2005. For AMIA director Leonardo Jmelnitzky, however, Nisman’s death irreparably hinders the probe into the bombing:
“He had worked for ten years in the cause. It is irreplaceable,” Jmlenitsky said. “The consequences of the prosecutor’s death are not those of the death of any person,” he added in an interview with the Jewish News Agency.
“It is very difficult to find someone who can get to know the case as he did,” Jmlenitsky said.
In a press release also signed by Julio Schlosser, head of DAIA Delegation of Argentine-Israeli Associations, AMIA warned against the death of prosecutor Nisman becoming the death of the (AMIA) probe.Video Source– YouTube via TelefeNoticias (Protests like this one at Buenos Aires' Plaza de Mayo have been held throughhout Argentina and in solidarity with the late Alberto Nisman).
Online Sources including Update – Clarin; La Nacion; The New York Times; Buenos Aires Herald; MercoPress; Semana.com; La Tercera