Judge with Jewish ties takes over Nisman probe of Kirchner
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Judge with Jewish ties takes over Nisman probe of Kirchner

Daniel Rafecas chosen by lottery to continue investigation into alleged corruption by the president, foreign minister

Argentinian judge Daniel Rafecas (Photo credit: YouTube screen capture)
Argentinian judge Daniel Rafecas (Photo credit: YouTube screen capture)

A federal judge in Argentina who has authored a book about the Holocaust was tapped to pick up the late AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s case against President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

Daniel Rafecas, who has a relationship with the Jewish community, was chosen by lottery on Wednesday to investigate allegations that Kirchner covered up Iran’s involvement in the 1994 attack against the Jewish center that left 85 dead and hundreds injured. Nisman also accused Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, who is Jewish, of participating in the cover-up.

Following the end of January’s judicial recess, Federal Judge Ariel Lijo declined to take up the case. Lijo is investigating another aspect of the AMIA case — a lawsuit accusing former President Carlos Menem of covering up Syrian involvement.

Rafecas, who is invited often to speak about the Holocaust, is well known in Argentina for applying the country’s anti-discrimination law in a case centering on skinheads, ordering them to visit the Holocaust Museum in Buenos Aires as part of their probation.

In July 2011, Rafecas was the main speaker at the 17th anniversary of the AMIA attack.

Also Wednesday, Nisman’s ex-wife testified that on Jan. 17, a day before Nisman was discovered dead in his Buenos Aires apartment, she was delivered a magazine that featured Nisman on its cover with a stain that appeared to be a gunshot to his head. Nisman died from a gunshot wound to the head; his death remains unexplained.

Sandra Arroyo Salgado, a federal judge, was testifying before Federal Judge Luis Rodriguez, who is investigating threats against Nisman, his ex-wife and their two daughters.

Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor investigating the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center, talks to journalists in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Wednesday, May 29, 2013.  (photo credit: AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor investigating the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center, talks to journalists in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Wednesday, May 29, 2013. (photo credit: AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Nisman received two letters, in August 2012 and in February 2013, that were filled with anti-Semitic epithets and threats to his life and the lives of his daughters.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that a draft of an arrest warrant for Kirchner was found in Nisman’s apartment. The document accuses Kirchner of covering up the alleged Iranian involvement in the AMIA attack.

The documents, found in Nisman’s garbage by police investigators, also called for the arrest of Timerman.

Kirchner and Timerman have denied allegations that they secretly negotiated oil in exchange for shielding Iranian officials from charges that they orchestrated the bombing.

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)

Had the warrants been issued “it would have provoked a crisis without precedents in Argentina,” a political analyst, Sergio Berensztein, said in The New York Times.

Nisman seems to have ultimately decided to denounce Fernandez and her government but not to ask for her immediate arrest.

Clarin, the largest newspaper in Argentina, on Sunday reported the discovery of the draft warrant.

Viviana Fein, the prosecutor investigating Nisman’s death, confirmed on Tuesday that Nisman had prepared the draft warrant, whose existence she had initially denied, according to The New York Times.

Fein reported on Monday that the single bullet that killed Nisman entered near his ear at the back of his ear, suggesting that he did not commit suicide, but that the trigger was pulled by someone else. The only DNA found at the crime scene was Nisman’s.

People hold placards that read "Justice" during a rally in front of the headquarters of the AMIA (Argentine Israelite Mutual Association), in Buenos Aires on January 21, 2015. (photo credit: Alejandro Pagni/AFP)
People hold placards that read “Justice” during a rally in front of the headquarters of the AMIA (Argentine Israelite Mutual Association), in Buenos Aires on January 21, 2015. (photo credit: Alejandro Pagni/AFP)

Investigators have said Nisman‘s death appeared to be suicide, but it has been classified as a suspicious death, and homicide or an “induced suicide” have not been ruled out.

After his death, Kirchner suggested Nisman had been manipulated by former intelligence agents who then killed him to smear her.

Kirchner has offered no evidence to support her theory, and did not say who she thought was behind Nisman‘s death.

The death has rocked Argentina’s leadership, and also sparked rallies in the Jewish community in support of the prosecutor..

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