Argentine special prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was set to testify Monday morning about allegations he made last week that President Cristina Kirchner covered up Iran’s role in the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center, was found dead just hours before his appearance in a closed-door session with lawmakers.
Unnamed sources told the Buenos Aires Herald that Nisman, found with a gunshot wound, had likely committed suicide, but the timing hours before his testimony raised eyebrows – as the Times of Israel noted – bolstered by chilling words Nisman reportedly told an Argentine paper, that the investigation “might kill him.”
The bombing more than 20 years ago of the Argentine Jewish Charities Federation, or AMIA, killed 85. Nisman had been investigating the bombing since 2004, Agence France-Presse reported, and accused Kirchner, Argentina’s foreign minister, and others, of blocking the investigation of Iran’s role in order to encourage trade with the Islamic Republic.
Nisman last week made public his allegations that Kirchner, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and others tried to “erase” Iran’s role in the bombing.
Alberto Nisman, who had been delving into the blast at the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people, said last Wednesday Fernandez had opened a secret back channel to a group of Iranians suspected of planting the bomb.
He had said the scheme intended to clear the suspects so Argentina could start swapping grains for much-needed oil from Iran.
Times of Israel editor David Horovitz who interviewed Nisman multiple times since 1994 credited the prosecutor with tracing the evidence in “the worst-ever terrorist attack in Argentina” back to a meeting of the Iranian leadership.
Horovitz wrote Monday that Nisman told him seven years ago that “he had been warned off the AMIA case by Iran, and that he had received death threats, including one that he found recorded on his home answering machine which was particularly troubling because his daughter was standing next to him when he played it.”
“As I wrote at the time, Nisman did not appear particularly fazed by the threats, saying lightly that he had no plans to visit the Islamic Republic. He also swore that he would not cease his work on the case until the perpetrators and orchestrators had been tried, convicted and jailed,” Horovitz recalled.
The Argentine Security Ministry said Nisman’s bodyguards called his mother Sunday afternoon when he didn’t answer his door or phone and that the newspapers were still on his doorstep. The door was locked from the inside, and a locksmith was called to open it, the Buenos Aires Herald reported.
It further reported that Nisman’s body was found on the bathroom floor next to a .22-caliber handgun. A shell casing was also found on the bathroom floor.
The ministry noted in its statement that Nisman had 10 bodyguards.
The judge for the 1994 bombing case last week criticized Nisman for presenting evidence he described as flawed.
Reuters reported that Argentine Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich said Nisman's allegations were "crazy, absurd, illogical, irrational, ridiculous, unconstitutional."
Argentine courts have accused Iran of being behind the bombing, a charge Iran denies.
The Israeli foreign ministry expressed its "deep sorrow" over Nisman's death, saying in a statement, "Nisman, a courageous jurist of high stature and a fearless fighter for justice, worked with great determination to expose the identities of the attack’s perpetrators and their dispatchers. The State of Israel hopes the authorities in Argentina will continue Nisman’s activity and make every possible effort to bring to justice those responsible for attacks in Argentina."
Featured image: AP photo/Natacha Pisarenko, File