Latin America

Argentinean court upholds dismissal of cover-up charges against president

Two of three judges on appeals panel reject dead prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s complaint

Alejandro Rebossio
A man holds up a sign in support of late prosecutor Alberto Nisman.
A man holds up a sign in support of late prosecutor Alberto Nisman.M. B. (REUTERS)

A federal appeals panel in Buenos Aires on Thursday upheld a lower court’s decision to dismiss a criminal complaint filed by late Argentinean prosecutor Alberto Nisman against President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner for allegedly trying to whitewash his ongoing inquiry into the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center.

Germán Moldes, the prosecutor who now has the case, has said he will appeal the decision with the country’s highest criminal court next week, according to Argentinean press reports.

Two of the three judges on the Federal Appeals Court sided with a lower court, which threw out the complaint in February after it was reactivated following Nisman’s death. One dissenting magistrate on the appeals bench believed that the investigation should proceed.

The case prosecutor will appeal the decision to a third court next week, say press reports

Nisman’s complaint and his subsequent death have been at the center of intense speculation throughout Argentina, forcing the leftist Fernández de Kirchner administration to use forceful defensive strategies over the past two months.

Nisman, who was found dead in his apartment on January 18 with a gunshot wound to his head, had filed a complaint against the president, her foreign minister and other officials. He accused them of trying to bargain a trade agreement with Iran in exchange for impunity for a group of Iranians who were charged with the 1994 blast at the AMIA Jewish Center that left 85 dead.

From the start, the government has denied these allegations and Fernández de Kirchner has speculated that Nisman may have been misled by rogue agents in Argentina’s intelligence services.

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The basis of the dead prosecutor’s original complaint is a 2013 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between Argentina and Iran that called for a joint investigation into the AMIA center car-bombing.

According to reports, Prosecutor Moldes has said he will now take the appeal to the Federal Cassation Court, which is expected to hold a hearing next week.

Gerardo Pollicita, the prosecutor who was assigned to take the case after Nisman’s death, had asked Judge Daniel Rafecas to investigate Fernández de Kirchner, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman and other officials named in the complaint. But Rafecas ruled that the allegations were baseless since “no crime was committed” because neither Argentina nor Iran applied the MOU.

At the same time, Argentina argued that last year the pact had been declared unconstitutional by the Federal Court in Buenos Aires.

Moldes took over the appeal that had been filed by Pollicita.

On Thursday, Judges Eduardo Freiler and Jorge Ballestero upheld Rafecas’s decision, but their colleague Eduardo Farah said the investigation should be carried out.

“If an issue of such institutional gravity is not investigated, it would only leave room for uncertainty,” Farah wrote in his dissenting opinion.

The political impact of Nisman’s original allegations seems to be diminishing

Nevertheless, the political impact of Nisman’s original allegations seems to be diminishing.

Following a massive February 18 demonstration by some sectors of Argentinean society to honor Nisman, Judge Rafaecas’s legal findings in the first dismissal have weakened the case.

Nevertheless, the investigation into Nisman’s death remains open.

Last weekend, Argentinean Justice Secretary Julián Álvarez suggested that Nisman was either killed or forced to commit suicide – a theory that President Fernández de Kirchner also raised when she wrote about it on her Facebook page earlier this year.

Álvarez’s comments came after the president’s Cabinet chief, Aníbal Fernández, accused Nisman of spending public money on young women and employees who never actually performed any work at the prosecutor’s office.

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