The Argentinean special prosecutor who last week formally accused President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of taking part in a cover-up to derail the investigation into the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center was found dead at his home on Sunday.
Authorities found the body of 51-year-old Alberto Nisman in his apartment in the Puerto Madero district of Buenos Aires just a day before he was scheduled to appear in Congress to explain the charges he recommended should be brought against the president and government officials.
A .22 caliber pistol and an empty bullet shell were found next to him in the bathroom, said Viviana Fein, the lead investigator into Nisman’s death. “We found a firearm. Now we have to determine the details of his death. I can’t tell whether it was a suicide. I am asking for discretion,” she told reporters.
Nisman’s mother and bodyguard had to call a locksmith to open the door to the bathroom where the body was blocking it from the inside.
The 1994 car-bombing of the Israeli-Argentina Mutual Association (AMIA) left 85 people dead
On Wednesday, Nisman filed a 300-page writ with a judge in which he accused Fernández de Kirchner of conspiring of trying to cover up Iran’s involvement in the car-bombing of the Israeli-Argentina Mutual Association (AMIA), which left 85 people dead and dozens injured. The prosecutor alleged that her objective was to “get politically closer to the Islamic Republic of Iran and re-establish state-to-state trade relations to help alleviate the Argentinean energy crisis through the exchange of grain for oil.”
The announcement caused a political stir throughout Argentina, with the government calling the accusations “absurd, illogical and ridiculous.” Fernández de Kirchner has not responded publicly to the charges.
In 2006, Nisman formally accused Iran of planning the attack and Hezbollah of carrying it out. International arrest warrants were issued for suspects in the case, including for Iran’s former defense minister Ahmad Vahidi, who at the time was a commander of a special unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Nisman had been put in charge of the investigation by Fernández de Kirchner’s husband, the late President Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007).
His relations with the Fernández de Kirchner government were solid until 2013 when the president announced unexpectedly that she would conduct a joint investigation with Iran into the AMIA bombing. A memorandum of understanding was approved by the Argentinean congress but has still not been ratified by the Iranian parliament.
Nisman told an opposition deputy that he had received numerous threats after he announced the charges
Nisman accused the president, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman, and other officials of trying “to negotiate and arrange impunity for the Iranian fugitives.” He reportedly based part of his evidence on telephone calls picked up by intelligence services.
Opposition deputy Patricia Bullrich told a television station that she spoke to Nisman on three occasions on Saturday and he told her that he had received numerous threats. The prosecutor also told Bullrich that he was aware that he was going to face an avalanche of criticism for recommending the charges.