Argentina: Rogue agents likely behind prosecutor’s murder

Day after president says Nisman’s death not suicide, government claims killing was part of power struggle within intelligence service

Women hold placards that read "Justice" and "I Am Nisman" during a rally in front of the headquarters of the AMIA memorial in Buenos Aires on January 21, 2015, to protest against the death of Argentine public prosecutor Alberto Nisman. (photo credit: AFP/Alejandro PAGNI)
Women hold placards that read "Justice" and "I Am Nisman" during a rally in front of the headquarters of the AMIA memorial in Buenos Aires on January 21, 2015, to protest against the death of Argentine public prosecutor Alberto Nisman. (photo credit: AFP/Alejandro PAGNI)

A day after Argentina’s President Cristina Kirchner said that prosecutor Alberto Nisman did not commit suicide, a complete volte-face from earlier claims following the suspicious death, the president’s office said Nisman was likely killed by rogue Argentinian intelligence agents.

Her government alleged Friday that the murder of Nisman, who investigated the 1994 suicide attack on the AMIA Jewish community offices in Buenos Aires, which left 85 people dead, was linked to a power struggle within the country’s intelligence service involving agents who were recently terminated, Reuters reported.

The government further suggested that these rogue elements may have had a hand in writing some of Nisman’s damning report on the government’s efforts to cover up Iran’s role in the attack.

“When he was alive they needed him to present the charges against the president. Then, undoubtedly, it was useful to have him dead,” the president’s chief of staff, Anibal Fernandez, told Reuters on Friday.

“I have worked quite a bit with prosecutor Nisman. I know he was a well qualified expert in the law. He could not have written this nonsense,” the government official said. “It is totally clear he had nothing to do with it, but there were people around him who had a different agenda.”

The 51-year-old Nisman was found in the bathroom of his locked apartment early Monday, a bullet wound on the right side of his head and, next to his body, a .22 caliber handgun and a single bullet casing, authorities said.

Nisman had spent 10 years investigating the bombing, which he pinned on Tehran and the Hezbollah terror group.

His death came hours before he was to appear in congress to detail his accusation that Kirchner, her foreign minister and other top officials had conspired to shield Iran and the Iranian officials who he alleged had masterminded the bombing. Administration officials dismissed his allegations as ludicrous.

The head of Argentina’s intelligence agency, Antonio “Jaime” Stiusso, who was helping Nisman with the investigation along with other agents, was fired in December, Reuters reported. Nisman had suspected agents from a rival faction within the agency had lent a hand to the president’s plot to cover up Iran’s actions, the report said.

Kirchner seemed to allege Thursday that Nisman had been fed false information by Stiusso, who had then disposed of him. “They used him while he was alive and then they needed him dead. It is that sad and terrible,” she wrote, according to the Buenos Aires Herald.

“Prosecutor Nisman did not know that the intelligence agents that he listed as such, were not. Least of all that one of them had been accused by Stiusso himself,” she wrote.

In his report, Nisman listed two men — Héctor Yrimia and Ramón Allan Héctor Bogado — as members of Argentina’s Secretariat of Intelligence. The SI denied that they worked for the service.

“If Stiusso was the one feeding Nisman with all the information, it is more than evident that it was Stiusso himself who told him (or wrote to him?) that Bogado and Yrimia were Intelligence agents,” Kirchner alleged.

Kirchner also referenced the judge involved in the bombing investigation, Rodolfo Canicoba Corral, who said that Stiusso’s involvement hindered the probe, and that he led it in a direction Stiusso wanted. “I personally believe he did more than that. The facts speak for themselves.”

The report, claimed Kirchner, “filled with ‘planted’ information, was covered by the death of the prosecutor. That is, an apparent suicide. A resource that has already been used in many sadly renowned cases.”

Initial investigation of Nisman’s death had pointed to suicide, authorities said. This contention has been widely challenged in Argentina and beyond.

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