BUENOS AIRES — Argentinian federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman was shot from a distance of at least 15 centimeters, according to the findings of an initial forensics exam, a source in the country’s Federal Police told local media on Saturday.
The finding completely contradicts the government’s initial claims that Nisman had committed suicide, an assertion president Cristina Fernandez Kirchner has since backtracked from.
The forensics exam also confirmed that there was no exit wound, a result expected when a gun is pressed to the temple, the Federal Police source said.
Nisman, 51, was found slumped in the bathroom of his apartment Sunday night with a bullet wound in his head and a .22 caliber handgun beside his body.
Four days before, he had given a judge a 289-page report alleging President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner had secretly reached a deal to prevent prosecution of former Iranian officials accused of involvement in the 1994 car bombing of the country’s largest Jewish center. The attack killed 85 people and injured more than 200. Nisman was set to give his testimony at a congressional hearing the next day.
Nisman contended that the government had agreed to swap grain for oil with Tehran in exchange for withdrawing “red notices” to Interpol seeking the arrests of the former and current Iranian officials accused in the unsolved case.
On Friday, the 10 police officers assigned to protect Nisman were being investigated for their actions on the day the prosecutor was found.
The officers, along with two supervisors, are being looked at as part of an internal police investigation into the handling of Nisman’s death, a person close to the investigation told The Associated Press on Friday on condition of anonymity. The officers are not considered suspects.
In particular, the source said, investigators are looking into the time it took two officers assigned to the door of Nisman’s building to advise their superiors that they had not been able to reach him by telephone.
Earlier this week, those two officers made declarations to lead investigator Viviana Fein, who would ultimately decide whether to try them for anything. All 10 have been suspended during the investigation, the person close to the case said.
Also on Friday, justice officials said they have been unable to locate the man who loaned Nisman the gun used in his death despite “repeated attempts,” and were ordering that he be barred from leaving the country without first getting permission from Argentine authorities.
Diego Lagomarsino, who spoke to authorities soon after Nisman’s death, said he had given a .22-caliber pistol to Nisman because the prosecutor wanted it for protection. Lagomarsino has not been named as a suspect.
Kirchner, who has dismissed Nisman’s allegations of a cover-up in the bombing, published two letters on social media this week about the prosecutor’s death — the first saying it appeared he had killed himself, then a second saying she was now convinced it wasn’t a suicide.
Nisman’s allegations, she said, were based on false information given to him by the former head of the intelligence services. In her second letter, published Thursday, she portrayed Nisman’s death as a way to damage her administration.
The US government won’t comment on the specifics of the case because the probe is in progress, but “we call for a complete and impartial investigation,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington on Friday.
“The United States and the international community continue to work with the Argentine government, as well as victims of the AMIA bombing and their families, to seek justice,” Psaki said.
Iran’s government has long denied any involvement in the bombing, and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Friday rejected Nisman’s accusation that his country had conspired with Kirchner’s government.
“It’s unfortunate that certain people try to keep this alive in Argentina in order to make political mileage out of it. It has nothing to do with Iran,” Zarif said in Davos, Switzerland.
Nisman had produced sufficient evidence of Iran’s involvement in the 1994 bombing as to have several senior Iranian officials placed on Interpol watch lists. Nisman had traced the evidence, in what remains the worst-ever terrorist attack in Argentina, all the way back to an August 1993 meeting of the Iranian leadership in Mashad, The Times of Israel’s David Horovitz noted last week. Nisman said he had been subject to death threats, and warnings from Iran, throughout his years investigating the case.
Nisman “courageously devoted much of his professional life” to going after those responsible for the attack in Buenos Aires, Psaki said.
Psaki declined to comment on the cover-up claims dogging Kirchner or speculate on the cause of Nisman’s death.
AFP contributed to this report.