Members of Congress are calling for a robust investigation into the death of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman — and for the continuation of his work that had linked the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center to Iran, and the cover-up of Iran’s involvement to the Kirchner government.
Nisman, 51, was scheduled to testify the day after his death 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.
Nisman had a security detail of 10 federal officers who have now been suspended; Iranian media is highlighting the theory that “rogue agents” killed Nisman. President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner quickly said the prosecutor committed suicide, but now says he was murdered in an effort to frame her government as evidence mounts showing that Nisman did not shoot himself in the forehead at close range.
Initial reports from the crime scene said a key was wedged in the front door lock from the inside, but the locksmith called to the scene said the service door was open and a third secret door to the apartment was found as well.
Jewish journalist Damian Pachter, who first reported Nisman’s death, has fled Argentina because of threats over the past week. He detailed the tale in a column for Haaretz after arriving in Israel. “I then had to consider the best thing to do, because when an Argentine intelligence agent is on your tail, it’s never good news. He didn’t just want to have a coffee with me, that’s for sure,” Pachter wrote. “I have no idea when I’ll be back in Argentina; I don’t even know if I want to. What I do know is that the country where I was born is not the happy place my Jewish grandparents used to tell me stories about.”
“After I left Argentina I found out that the government was still publishing wrong information about me on social media,” the journalist continued. “The Twitter feed of Casa Rosada, the Argentine presidential palace, posted the details of the airline ticket I had bought, and claimed that I intended to return to Argentina by February 2 — in other words, I hadn’t really fled the country. In fact, my return date is in December.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said Kirchner’s announcement that Mr. Nisman’s death was not a suicide “raises troubling new questions.”
“His investigation – which promised to shed light on new evidence about Iran’s role in the bombing – must continue and his findings must be made public to ensure that those responsible are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Menendez said. “The increasingly suspicious conditions surrounding Mr. Nisman’s death, just hours before he was scheduled to testify before the Argentine Congress, demand a thorough and transparent investigation. I urge the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires to take all possible steps to support an open and credible investigation.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry stressing that the administration “should press for a thorough and impartial international investigation into his death, and the serious allegations of Argentine collusion with Iran that Nisman was poised to unveil before the Argentine legislature just hours before his body was found.”
“Mr. Nisman’s investigations uncovered a web of corruption, impunity, and the irrefutable hand of the Iranian regime and its proxy Hezbollah in the 1994 bombing. However, neither Iran nor Hezbollah have been held accountable for this horrific act,” Royce wrote. “In fact, Nisman’s latest allegations point to a conspiracy at the highest levels of the Argentine government to cover up Iran’s involvement in the bombing as part of a deal to trade Argentine grain for Iranian oil.”
Royce tied Nisman’s death to the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, telling Kerry “we must not forget Iran’s clear, long-standing commitment to obtaining a nuclear capability at all cost—an effort which once benefited from Argentinean cooperation.”
“We must also not ignore Iran’s continued use of proxies, such as Hezbollah, to perpetrate terror worldwide,” Royce said. “…Assigning an independent, international panel to examine Nisman’s evidence of Iranian involvement in the 1994 terrorist attack and Argentinian collusion in its cover-up would be a major step toward finding his killer and finally bringing the perpetrators of this deadly terrorist attack to justice.”
The administration has said little about Nisman’s death. State Department press secretary Jen Psaki said “we’re not going to speculate in any aspect of his death” when pressed Friday about potential Iran involvement.
Menendez said thoughts also need to be with Argentina’s Jewish community “as it once again suffers the frustrations of not seeing justice served for the victims of the brutal 1994 attack.”
“It has been said that Mr. Nisman is now the 86th victim of the AMIA terror attack and we must ensure that all questions surrounding their deaths are answered and that justice prevails.”