Much confusion, few answers, in mysterious death of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman

Argentina has been rocked by the death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was found in a pool of blood on Jan. 18 hours before he was to elaborate on his accusation that President Cristina Fernandez protected those responsible for a 1994 terror bombing. The case is shrouded in charges of a high-level cover-up and government suggestions that Nisman’s death was orchestrated by rogue intelligence agents.

More than a week after he was found with a bullet in his head, there are more questions than answers:



Several days before he was found dead, Nisman leveled claims against Fernandez, accusing her of shielding Iranian officials wanted in a 1994 bombing that killed 85 people and injured more than 200 at a Jewish community center. Wiretaps allegedly recorded Fernandez discussing a deal to protect the Iranians in 2013, about the same time Argentina approved a “Memorandum of Understanding” in which the two countries agreed to cooperate in investigating the bombing, which has never been solved.

According to Nisman, Fernandez did this in exchange for favorable economic deals with the Middle Eastern country. Fernandez has rejected Nisman’s claims, arguing Argentina had little to gain from such a deal. Iran repeatedly has denied involvement in the bombing.



The morning after Nisman was found, prosecutor Viviana Fein, the lead investigator in the case, said it appeared Nisman had committed suicide. That same day, Fernandez published a letter on several social media sites suggesting Nisman had taken his own life. Several lawmakers and Nisman’s colleagues immediately rejected the possibility of suicide, arguing it simply didn’t make sense.

Three days later, Fernandez wrote another letter suggesting Nisman’s death had been orchestrated by rogue elements in the intelligence community. Around the same time, Fein and other government officials began saying they were investigating a possible homicide.



The 10 federal policemen assigned to protect Nisman have been put on leave while the case is investigated, but no one has been arrested or named as a possible suspect. Fernandez and other government officials have cast doubt on Diego Lagomarsino, a Nisman aide who has acknowledged that, the day before the death, he gave the prosecutor the gun used to kill him. However, Fein has said there is no indication that Lagomarsino was behind Nisman’s death.



In her letters, and during a national address on Jan. 26, Fernandez suggested rogue elements in the intelligence services orchestrated a hit on Nisman to destabilize her government. She did not say who or what their ultimate reason might have been. However, she suggested responsibility may lay with Antonio “Jaime” Stiuso, a recently deposed top intelligence operative who, according to news reports, oversaw a vast wire-tapping operation.

Fernandez said Stiuso fed Nisman false information about alleged spies and even suggested that Stiuso had written Nisman’s 289-page report detailing his case against Fernandez. However, Fernandez has not elaborated, and Stiuso’s whereabouts are unknown.



During her national address, Fernandez called on Congress to overhaul the Secretary of Intelligence, saying doing so was a “national debt” the country had pending since its return to democracy in 1983. She said the country’s spy agencies operated similar to the way they did during the military dictatorship and often were used for political ends. Opposition parties have rejected her calls, arguing that intelligence services already report to the president and Fernandez’s party has been in power since 2003.

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