The death of the prosecutor who vigorously pursued Iran for the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires — and had also accused Argentina President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in a cover-up — raised red flags as the government he was investigating quickly called it suicide.
Alberto Nisman, 51, was scheduled to testify Monday before a congressional inquiry into the alleged protection of suspects by the presidential palace. Nisman had long been the target of death threats, and said four days before his death that someone in the Argentine government was leaking information contained in his inquiry to the Iranians.
The bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires killed 87 people and injured more than 100, and Nisman lived and breathed his dogged pursuit of bringing the perpetrators to justice.
Now, after the government has quickly and conveniently said that the bullet to Nisman’s head was self-inflicted, who will get justice for Nisman?
Nisman filed his case against Fernandez on Wednesday. The motive for her government to turn tail on the terrorism investigation? Better relations with Iran:
In a radio interview on Thursday, a day after filing the case, Nisman ratified his accusations against president Cristina Fernández. “From all the phone tapping records, which were verified, we proved that two months after the death of (former president) Néstor Kirchner (…) Argentina made a 180-degree turn in its foreign policy.”
The prosecutor went on: “(The Executive) decided to approach Iran geopolitically (…) they wanted to establish full diplomatic relations, and more importantly, a commercial trade due to the energy crisis that Argentina faced.”
Nisman has accused the government of improving its relation with Tehran in order to obtain oil and to boost grain exports at the expense of covering up Iranian officials’ involvement in the bombing.
…Nisman said that the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2013 between Argentina and Iran “was presented as something to help unblock the negotiations and ended up being a criminal deal of impunity which was reached once everything else was already agreed beforehand.” He added that the agreement was “a way to introduce a false lead” in the probe.
He said that before the Memorandum was approved, “Argentina’s intelligence agents told the Iranians ‘relax, good news, we have already won’.”
The New York Times on the details of Nisman’s death so far:
Mr. Nisman was found on the floor of his bathroom, according to the Security Ministry. Protected by 10 federal police officers, he had lived in an apartment on the 13th floor of a building in Puerto Madero, an exclusive neighborhood close to downtown Buenos Aires.
On Sunday afternoon, the officers were concerned because they had been unable to contact Mr. Nisman by telephone and his Sunday newspaper still lay outside his apartment. They called his family, but his mother was unable to open the apartment door with a spare key because there was a key in the lock on the other side. A locksmith was called, and Mr. Nisman’s mother entered the apartment with the officers.
The prosecutor who has been assigned to investigate Mr. Nisman’s death, Viviana Fein, told reporters on Monday morning that there were no witnesses and that Mr. Nisman had not left a suicide note. She said she was waiting for evidence like CCTV footage and a list of phone calls from the police, and that Mr. Nisman had not eaten dinner on Sunday night.
Anti-Defamation League president Abe Foxman said in a statement that Nisman’s death “should not be another excuse to extend the decades-long delays in bringing the Iranian masterminds and perpetrators to justice.”
“The timing and circumstances of Mr. Nisman’s death, coming just days after he released detailed allegations of high-level government attempts to evade his investigation and hours before he was scheduled to present additional details to members of the Argentine Congress, raise serious questions about whether Mr. Nisman’s death was related to his work on the AMIA bombing,” Foxman added.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) similarly called Nisman’s death “very concerning on many levels.”
“Given his long-standing work investigating Iran’s role in the 1994 terrorist bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center and his latest report accusing Argentina’s president of attempting to clear Iranians of these charges, one cannot help but suspect foul play,” Rubio said.
“The U.S. House of Representatives invited Dr. Nisman to testify before Congress last year, but his government did not give him permission. I intend to explore ways to ensure Dr. Nisman’s thorough investigation into Iran’s role in the AMIA and his lengthy reports on Iran’s penetration into Latin America receive the attention they deserve.”