‘Alberto Nisman Was the 86th Victim of the AMIA Bombing:’ Skepticism Meets Official Argentine Suggestion That Special Prosecutor Committed Suicide (VIDEO)
Assertions by Argentinian officials that Alberto Nisman – the Special Prosecutor investigating the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish Center in Buenos Aires who was found dead this morning – may have committed suicide are being treated with extreme caution by those familiar with both the man and his case.
“This is a man who dedicated his entire life to this case – why now?” asked Leah Soibel, the Argentine-born director of Fuente Latina, an Israeli NGO that provides information and assistance to Spanish-language journalists covering the Middle East.
Nisman’s death – the latest traumatic development in a case that has yet to secure a single conviction more than twenty years after 85 people were murdered in the worst antisemitic atrocity since the Second World War – was discovered hours before he was due to appear before a congressional committee to present new evidence that, the Prosecutor said, implicated President Cristina “‹Fernández de Kirchner and Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman in a deliberate cover-up of Iran’s involvement with the attack.
“Alberto Nisman was the 86th victim of the AMIA bombing,” Soibel said.
Among the first on the scene at Nisman’s apartment, where his mother found him lying in a pool of blood with a .22 caliber pistol by his side just before midnight, was Security Minister Sergio Berni, a close ally of President Fernández de Kirchner. Berni told the daily newspaper La Nacion that, in his initial assessment, “all roads lead to suicide.”
“That is exactly what one would expect Berni to say,” Eamonn MacDonagh, a writer and political analyst based in Buenos Aires, told The Algemeiner. “But when you understand that Nisman was going to appear at a congressional committee today to elaborate on grave charges of treachery involving the president and the foreign minister, you can only conclude that the burden of proof lies with the people who say that he committed suicide.”
Neither President Fernández de Kirchner nor Foreign Minister Timerman have yet made a public statement about Nisman’s death. Timerman, who arrived in New York last night, was filmed refusing to answer the questions of an Argentinian journalist who cornered him at John F. Kennedy Airport:
As The Algemeiner reported last week, Nisman claimed he had discovered a plan hatched by Fernández de Kirchner to overlook Iran’s role in the atrocity, in order to “make a geopolitical move closer to the Islamic Republic of Iran, and to establish full economic ties” for the purpose of alleviating “Argentina’s energy crisis through a ‘grain for oil’ deal.” Nisman, whose findings are summarized in a 300 page complaint, had wanted to question Kirchner and other officials over whether there was an attempt to “fabricate,” as he put it, “the innocence of Iran.”
Nisman, who in 2006 formally charged the Iranians with having executed the bombing, claimed that Kirchner had set up a secret “back channel” to Iran with the aim of “transmitting the Presidents instructions and achieving her objectives.” A number of prominent figures have been named in connection with these clandestine communications with Iran, including staff members of the state intelligence service, parliamentarian Andrés Larroque, pro-government activists Luis D’Elia and Fernando Esteche, and Jorge “Yussuf” Khalil, a leading figure in the country’s Iranian community who is reported to have close ties with the Iranian regime.
After news of Nisman’s fresh allegations became public, he warned friends that “I could end up dead because of this,” Argentinian newspaper Clarin reported. Nisman, who was 51 years old, is also reported to have warned his daughter, “you’re going to hear terrible things about me.”
MacDonagh noted that Argentina’s official media had been very slow to report Nisman’s death, despite the fact that independent news sources were focusing on little else. “The first official mention came just after 8AM on the website of Pagina 12,” one of the country’s leading official newspapers, he said.
Meanwhile, speculation as to the circumstances of Nisman’s death are reaching fever pitch on Twitter and other social media platforms, with some users accusing Berni of having gone to Nisman’s apartment to remove confidential documents that were related to this afternoon’s scheduled hearing. A few leading political commentators, such as radio show host Roman Lejtman, cast doubt on the suicide claim by insisting that Nisman was not the type of person who would take his own life.
MacDonagh added that the future of Nisman’s investigation into Fernández de Kirchner, Timerman and other officials was now in the hands of Judge Ariel Lijo, to whom the Prosecutor had submitted his lengthy report. On Monday morning, Judge Lijo was reported to be returning to Buenos Aires after cutting short an official vacation.
“As for the investigation into the actual bombing of AMIA, God knows what will now happen to that,” MacDonagh said. “How Nisman’s death is dealt with will be a key test of Argentina’s democracy – are we living in a country run by the rule of law, or one that is run by the mafia?”
Soibel, who met with Nisman on several occasions, paid tribute to the Prosecutor’s tenacity and determination.
“He was brave unlike any other, and always sought the truth behind the AMIA horror,” Soibel said. Julio Schlosser, the head of the DAIA, Argentine Jewish communal body, had summarized the tragedy perfectly, she said, when he observed that “today, another bomb exploded in Argentina.”