Latin America

Secret entrance and prints found at home of dead Argentinean prosecutor

“The suicide was not a suicide,” says President Fernández de Kirchner

Francisco Peregil
Argentinean security secretary Sergio Berni outside Alberto Nisman's home on Sunday.
Argentinean security secretary Sergio Berni outside Alberto Nisman's home on Sunday.C. F. (AFP)

Authorities investigating the death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, whose body was found in his home days after he accused Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of trying to derail a 1994 terrorist bombing inquiry, have said they have found a set of prints in a small passageway that led to his apartment, according to news agency DyN.

Given that the passage, which linked Nisman’s home with that of a foreign neighbor, contained air conditioning units, investigators are now trying to determine if the prints belong to a repairman or somebody else.

The timing of the 51-year-old’s death – hours before he was expected to testify against President Fernández de Kirchner – has fueled speculation throughout the country as investigators have begun looking at different angles.

Authorities are baffled as to why Nisman would ask for a pistol when he already had two firearms

Nisman had accused the president and other government officials of trying to cover-up the 1994 car-bombing of the Israeli-Argentina Mutual Association (AMIA), which left 85 people dead and dozens injured.

For years, the prosecutor blamed Iran and the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah for the attack and issued international arrest warrants for six prominent Iranians and a Lebanese national.

But basing evidence on surveillance recordings by members of Argentina’s intelligence services, Nisman said in a 300-page report given to a judge on January 14 that Fernández de Kirchner conspired to drop the charges in exchange for a grain-for-oil deal with Iran.

Nisman reportedly told a journalist and an opposition lawmaker that he feared for his life after filing the charges. He was scheduled to testify in Congress on Monday about the allegations in his report, but was found dead from a gunshot wound to his head in his bathroom by his mother and a bodyguard the day before.

On her Facebook account on Thursday, Fernández de Kirchner said the “spies” mentioned in Nisman’s report never worked for the intelligence services. “Nisman’s accusations not only fall apart, but they also make up a true political and judicial scandal,” she wrote.

"The suicide (I am convinced) was not a suicide," she said.

Argentineans demand justice for Alberto Nisman.
Argentineans demand justice for Alberto Nisman.Reuters

The prosecutor’s mother and bodyguard called a locksmith after they had trouble gaining access to Nisman’s apartment. After giving a statement to authorities, the locksmith answered questions from reporters on Tuesday.

– “The service [door] was not locked. I only pushed the key in and we entered in about two minutes,” he said, adding anyone would have been able to enter.

–“In other words, anyone could have gone out that door and simply closed it from the outside?” asked one reporter.

–“Yes, you can envision that.”

Meanwhile, many questions remain unanswered.

Nisman reportedly asked a computer contract employee at the prosecutor’s office, Diego Lagomarsino, for the .22 caliber Bersa pistol that was found next to his body.

Lagomarsino testified that Nisman wanted the gun to defend himself in case something happened. But authorities are baffled over why Nisman would ask for a pistol when he already had two firearms licensed in his name.

Lead investigator Viviana Fein said forensic experts did not find any gunshot residue on Nisman’s hands, but still have not ruled out a suicide.

The service door was not locked. I only pushed the key in and we entered in about two minutes,” the locksmith said

The scene on Sunday at Nisman’s apartment in Buenos Aires’ Puerto Madero neighborhood has also fueled conjecture in the media.

Less than an hour after his body was found, the government’s security secretary, Sergio Berni, who is also a close aide to President Fernández de Kirchner, was already at the scene before an investigative judge arrived.

“I arrived two minutes before the judge and two hours later the prosecutor arrived,” Berni told a television station. “I didn’t enter the bathroom and I didn’t let anyone else enter.”

But perhaps the biggest mystery surrounds the passageway that was found connecting Nisman’s apartment with a neighbor’s home. According to the DyN news agency, authorities found finger and footprints in the small passageway where air conditioning units are located. A foreigner “who is not Iranian” lives in the other apartment, the news agency said.

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