Argentine prosecutor Ricardo Sáenz on Thursday told judges at the Criminal Court that special prosecutor Alberto Nisman was murdered, and demanded a federal investigation of the case.
Nisman was found dead in his apartment on January 18, 2015. Days earlier, he had accused then president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of helping Iranian officials cover up Iran’s role in the deadly 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people were killed. The case against Kirchner was later thrown out.
In his written opinion, Sáenz said there is proof that Nisman got death threats, that he was hit several times before he was shot in the head, and that his body had been moved, altering the crime scene. He also said Nisman’s cellphone and computer were tampered with to delete any traces of the information and calls that he received hours before his death.
In his letter to the court, Sáenz said the federal courts should be given jurisdiction over the probe of Nisman’s death given the suspicions of homicide.
Sáenz’s opinion marks the first time a judicial official has called Nisman’s death a homicide. The opinion presented was sought in an appeal by Nisman’s former wife, who is pushing for a federal court investigation.
The mysterious death rocked Argentina, but has not been solved.
A local judge recently said there is not enough evidence to determine that the prosecutor was slain and rejected a request to move the case to a federal court. Nisman’s family appealed, leading to the latest development. A decision on the appeal is expected soon.
Sáenz said he agrees with family members who contend that the timing and historical context surrounding Nisman’s death will be vital to determine whether the case should be investigated by a federal court.
“Nisman was in charge of the investigation of the worst terrorist attack suffered by our country,” Sáenz said. “And he was found dead four days after making very serious accusations for the cover-up of that attack.”
An attorney for Nisman’s daughters praised Saenz’s announcement, saying that to date there hasn’t been a single judicial official who had come out for the hypothesis that the prosecutor had been murdered, the Infobae news site reported.
Nisman had accused the government of establishing a “parallel communication channel” with Iran in order to “transmit and implement the orders established by the president (Kirchner) and, in that way, reach the illicit objectives,” including establishing trade relations. His body was discovered just hours before he was to present the evidence to Argentine lawmakers at the National Parliament.
A .22 pistol was found by his side, and associates of the former president maintained his death was a suicide, but the mysterious circumstances of his death prompted a public outcry.
The July 1994 bombing at the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) remains the deadliest terror strike in the country’s history: it killed 85 people and wounded 300. After a botched investigation tainted by corruption allegations, Nisman was appointed to lead a new probe.
In 2006, he accused Iran of having ordered the attack via Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.
But his efforts to prosecute five Iranian officials, including former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, were cut short when Kirchner’s administration signed a deal with Iran to set up a Tehran-based joint commission to investigate the attacks.
Nisman accused Kirchner of sealing the deal in exchange for oil and trade benefits, basing his accusations on hundreds of hours of wiretaps.
Kirchner dismissed the allegations as part of a plot by disgruntled intelligence agents to discredit her.
With Argentina heading toward elections, suspicions swirled with Nisman’s death.
Independent investigators hired by his family concluded he was killed, but that version has never been backed up by the official probe.
Mauricio Macri, who assumed the presidency of Argentina in December 2015, voided the agreement with Iran to jointly investigate the bombing in his first week in office. Macri said during the election campaign that the investigations into Nisman’s death and the AMIA bombing must be advanced to find the truth.
JTA contributed to this report.