Latin America

No gunshot residue found on dead Argentinean prosecutor’s hands

President Fernández de Kirchner declassifies files on inquiry into Jewish center bombing

Francisco Peregil
A protest over the Nisman case in Buenos Aires.
A protest over the Nisman case in Buenos Aires.ALEJANDRO PAGNI (AFP)

Argentinean authorities on Tuesday said they had found no traces of gunshot residue on the hands of federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was found dead in his apartment days after accusing President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and other government officials of conspiring to cover up the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center.

Viviana Fein, who is investigating Nisman’s death, said officials have still not ruled out that the 51-year-old may have committed suicide.

“Because it is a small firearm and not a war weapon, it usually means that the results of the electronic testing do not always come back positive,” she said, adding that DNA testing was also being conducted on the pistol.

Nisman’s body was found in the bathroom of his apartment on Sunday next to a .22 caliber pistol. 

The president questioned the timing of the charges Nisman lodged against her and other officials

He had been investigating the 1994 car bombing of the Israeli-Argentina Mutual Association (AMIA), which left 85 people dead and dozens injured, concluding that Iran and the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah were responsible for what was the worst terrorist attack ever committed in Argentina.

On Wednesday, he formally accused Fernández de Kirchner and a host of government officials of trying to seek impunity for fugitive terrorists by negotiating a secret oil-for-grain pact with Iran.

The day after he was found dead in his home, Fernández de Kirchner ordered the declassifying of all secret files regarding the long inquiry into the bombing.

Nisman’s evidence was based on surveillance conversations between Argentinean intelligence agents and Iranian diplomats. However, the 300-page writ, which he presented to a judge, was kept under seal to protect the identities of the four agents.

But Fernández de Kirchner has now ordered the entire case file declassified, including the release of the agents’ names.

Nisman had reportedly told an opposition lawmaker that he feared for his life after filing the charges against Fernández de Kirchner, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman, and other officials.

Fein has said there is still no evidence that “third persons” were involved in his death.

“We are investigating if he was pressured or instigated into committing suicide by threat, either by telephone or text messages,” Sein told a radio station in Argentina. “We have confiscated a lot of material.” Nisman’s body showed no signs of having been beaten, she added.

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The entire case has sparked outrage across Argentina. On Monday night, thousands of people marched in Buenos Aires and other cities.

The president, who had not commented on the case since the accusations were lodged against her, issued a 2,000-word letter on Facebook entitled “AMIA. Once again, tragedy, confusion, lies and questions.”

Fernández de Kirchner questioned the opportune timing of the charges, saying they came soon after the terrorist attacks that took place in Paris. She also asked who had ordered Nisman to interrupt his vacation in Spain, “leaving his young daughter at Barajas airport” to return to Buenos Aires to present the charges.

In 2007, Nisman concluded that Iran and the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah were responsible for the car bombing of the Israeli-Argentina Mutual Association (AMIA).

After the investigation hit a roadblock, the president signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran in 2013 to set up a joint truth commission to investigate the bombing. Nisman alleged that the move was designed to cover-up the real perpetrators, including Iran’s former defense minister Ahmad Vahidi, who at the time was a commander of a special unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

But Fernández de Kirchner defended signing the memorandum, saying it was “the only way to unlock the investigation,” which has been at a standstill for 21 years.

International warrants had been issued for six people but no one has been arrested for the bombing.

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