Alberto Nisman committed suicide? Let’s kill that lie

Op-ed: Let nobody be fooled into thinking the prosecutor who was about to testify against Argentina’s president ended his own life

David Horovitz

David Horovitz is the founding editor of The Times of Israel. He is the author of "Still Life with Bombers" (2004) and "A Little Too Close to God" (2000), and co-author of "Shalom Friend: The Life and Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin" (1996). He previously edited The Jerusalem Post (2004-2011) and The Jerusalem Report (1998-2004).

Women protest while holding signs that read in Spanish 'We are all Nisman, No to Fear,' referring to the death of special prosecutor Alberto Nisman, outside Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015. (photo credit: AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Women protest while holding signs that read in Spanish 'We are all Nisman, No to Fear,' referring to the death of special prosecutor Alberto Nisman, outside Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015. (photo credit: AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

When I sat down Monday to write about the appalling death of the courageous Buenos Aires prosecutor who exposed the Iranian and Hezbollah orchestration of the 1994 AMIA bombing, I didn’t even mention the Argentinian authorities’ initial contention that Alberto Nisman had committed suicide, so insulting and ridiculous was the notion.

A day later, however, and the preposterous idea that Nisman took his own life has become the Argentinian authorities’ dominant assertion. Let’s kill that lie stone dead. Alberto Nisman was no suicide.

(That he was forced to put a gun to his own head, a possibility left open by the Argentinian investigating prosecutor, is quite plausible, however. But that’s not suicide; that’s murder.)

I’ve just come back from a conversation with the Argentinian-born Israeli author Gustavo Perednik, who wrote a book last year about the AMIA case — “To Kill Without A Trace” — and was a good friend of Nisman’s. “It’s rubbish. It’s lies,” Perednik says briskly of the despicable suicide claim.

Alberto Nisman (photo credit: AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Alberto Nisman (photo credit: AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Perednik, who was in constant contact with Nisman and last met with him in Buenos Aires a month ago, notes that both Nisman’s personality and the timing of his death render the suicide notion beyond risible.

Nisman the man was a tennis-playing optimist who loved and enjoyed life, who spoke of his separation from his long-term partner a year ago as a “liberation,” and who was utterly dedicated to his work, notes Perednik. He was a man who firmly shrugged off death threats, was balanced, and focused, and decent, and fine.

Gustavo Perednik (photo credit: Courtesy)
Gustavo Perednik (photo credit: Courtesy)

As for the timing, Perednik despairs at the naivete of anyone prepared to countenance that a prosecutor who has spent a decade heading a 30-strong team investigating the worst terror attack ever committed in Argentina; who has identified the Iranian leaders who ordered it and had them placed on Interpol watch lists; who has traced and named the Hezbollah terrorists who carried out the bombing; who has exposed Iran’s still-active terror networks in South America; and who was about to detail the alleged efforts of Argentinian President Cristina Fernández and Foreign Minister Hector Timerman to whitewash Iran’s role — that this man would choose to take his own life just a few hours before giving his testimony to a Congressional hearing.

But Nisman was found dead by “self-inflicted” bullet wound in a locked apartment with no sign of forced entry, the Argentinian authorities say? Perednik is succinct and withering about both motivation and capability: Does anyone doubt that a government capable of whitewashing Iran is capable of producing a dead prosecutor in a locked apartment? he asks. “In our last conversation, Nisman told me that his evidence would either force [those top Argentinian leaders] to flee or send them to jail. He told me, ‘I’m going to put them in jail.'” Sunday was their last chance to stop him.

Perednik actually gave me the names of two men he believes may have been involved in the murder, but stressed that he has no evidence. He also stressed that he has no knowledge of presidential involvement. “I don’t know how mad you get” when you’re facing a prosecutor who’s about to bring you down, he says. “Maybe someone said, ‘He’s gone too far,’ and she [the president] said nothing.”

The AMIA case was solved

A second lie it’s important to nail as it is spread worldwide by journalists who ought to know better is that the AMIA case was never solved. Not only has Nisman been murdered, but his 10 years of work are being misrepresented, even obliterated. The AMIA case was emphatically solved, by Alberto Nisman.

As I detailed Monday, he traced the orchestration of the bombing all the way back to the August 1993 meeting of Iran’s leadership at which it was commissioned, and identified the key conspirators to the satisfaction of Interpol. We know who ordered the bombing — an Iranian government committee headed by supreme leader Ali Khamenei and then president Hashemi Rafsanjani. We know who arranged it — the late and unlamented Hezbollah terror chief Imad Mughniyeh. And we know all about Ibrahim Berro, the suicide bomber who drove the explosives-filled Renault Trafic van into the building on July 18, 1994, killing 85 innocents. All thanks to Alberto Nisman.

The aftermath of the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires (Newspaper La Nación (Argentina/Wikipedia Commons)

Solving the case, I should note, is not the same as bringing the culprits to justice. Despite Nisman’s efforts, the Iranian conspirators have not been indicted, tried and jailed — in good part, he was about to allege, because of Fernández’s duplicity. If so, this is a supreme and terrible irony, given that it was her own late husband, Nestor Kirchner, horrified by years of flawed and skewed and politicized investigation of the AMIA attack, who appointed Nisman a decade ago precisely to get to the truth and air it.

Argentina’s moment of truth

Perednik accurately sees in the killing of Alberto Nisman a “devastating blow” to justice, the death of “a symbol of pure-hearted dedication to the truth, a world destroyed, and a victory for the evil-doers.”

He does not, however, believe the entire battle is necessarily lost. He names Jaime Stiusso, a former top officer in Argentina’s Secretariat of Intelligence, S.I., who was fired by Fernández, as the official most capable both of getting to the bottom of Nisman’s killing and of marshaling and producing the evidence, including allegedly incriminating tape recordings, that Nisman had been about to present.

More widely, he’s encouraged by the sight of thousands of Argentinian demonstrators taking to the streets Monday to protest Nisman’s death and demand justice. Some of them, he notes, were carrying placards declaring “I am Nisman.” Others were carrying placards proclaiming, “Cristina Killer.”

Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner speaking on October 1, 2014. (screen capture: YouTube/AFP News Agency)
Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner speaking on October 1, 2014. (screen capture: YouTube/AFP News Agency)

“This is not the Argentina of decades ago, when people could just disappear,” says Perednik. “Basically, those demonstrators are accusing the president of murder, and in today’s Argentina, the authorities didn’t and couldn’t send in the police against them. “If the opposition doesn’t let this drop,” he says, then Nisman’s death might not be in vain.

“I always told him, ‘They’re going to kill you,'” Perednik says of his conversations with Nisman over the years. “He really didn’t believe it. Maybe he was naive. But he believed in Argentinian justice.”

Let nobody be fooled. Alberto Nisman was wrong. He was failed by Argentinian justice. The test now is whether the evil-doers, in Argentina and Iran, will be allowed to fully triumph. Whether the terrorists and the murderers will be free to plot and execute further atrocities, or whether honesty and integrity and resilience and justice will reassert themselves.

That struggle starts with an honest investigation of the killing of Alberto Nisman, and the presentation for honest evaluation of the evidence — the murderously incendiary evidence — he was about to make public.

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