Political murder court to handle death of Argentine prosecutor

Criminal Appeals Court rules shooting of Alberto Nisman could be ‘a result of the activity of a third party’

Argentina's public prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, gives a news conference in Buenos Aires, May 20, 2009. (JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images)
Argentina's public prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, gives a news conference in Buenos Aires, May 20, 2009. (JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The investigation into the shooting to death of AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman must be moved to a federal court, a Buenos Aires court ruled.

In Argentina, federal courts handle political murder cases.

The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the Buenos Aires City Criminal Appeals Court was handed down Tuesday.

“It is plausible to give credit to the hypothesis suggested by the accusers, both public and private, to assume that the death of Alberto Natalio Nisman could also be a result of the activity of a third party,” two of the three judges wrote.

On Friday, during a appeals court hearing on the case, Nisman’s ex-wife, Sandra Arroyo Salgado, a former federal judge, cried when she said Nisman’s death “was the most serious institutional event to affect Argentina since the return of democracy.”

One of Salgado’s lawyers, Manuel Romero Victorica, read aloud the threats emailed to Nisman in the weeks before his death.

“We will make true our promise to kill you and your family, but before that, we will make you look like shit in public and in the media,” one message said. “We’ve already managed to separate you from the AMIA case and we’ve gotten Argentina a deal with Iran without you.”

An attorney for Nisman’s mother, Sara Garfunkel, asked the court to send the Nisman case to the federal court.

“Nisman was assassinated so as to impede the progress of his work on behalf of the state,” Pablo Lanusse said. “This case is screaming for a transfer to the federal courts because it must be recognized that Nisman was murdered.”

Nisman was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment in January 2015 hours before he was to present evidence to Argentine lawmakers that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner covered up Iran’s role in the AMIA Jewish center bombing, which left 85 dead and hundreds wounded. No official cause of death has been given.

Earlier this month, a city court judge declared herself “unfit” to continue with the case and ordered the venue of the case changed to a federal court 10 hours after a former Argentine spymaster accused the Kirchner government of being responsible for Nisman’s death.

The ruling by Fabiana Palmaghini was challenged by the lawyer who represents IT expert Diego Lagomarsino, an employee in the Buenos Aires prosecutor’s office who acknowledged that he had lent a “very old” .22 caliber pistol to Nisman, which was used in his death.

In late February, Ricardo Saenz, the attorney general for Argentina’s Criminal Appeals Court, wrote in a letter to the appeals court judges that a federal magistrate “has the broadest jurisdiction to clarify which of all the assumptions” involving Nisman’s death is accurate.

A lottery will determine which federal judge will hear the case.

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