Thousands hold vigil for late prosecutor Alberto Nisman.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BUENOS AIRES – Argentinean prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who died last year days after accusing then-president Cristina Fernandez of covering up Iran’s role in the bombing of a Jewish center, was apparently murdered, an official investigating the case said on Thursday.
Nisman was found shot dead in the bathroom of his Buenos Aires apartment on January 18, 2015. The case had been classified as a suicide, an idea Nisman’s family and friends dismissed as absurd.
Polls show most Argentineans believe he was murdered.
“The evidence up to this point supports the hypothesis that Alberto Nisman was the victim of the crime of homicide,” Ricardo Saenz, district attorney for the Buenos Aires Criminal Appeals Court, wrote in a recommendation that the case be handed over to federal authorities and pursued as a murder investigation.
It was the first time that a judicial authority had classified the death as a homicide.
The move came amid a slew of changes made since President Mauricio Macri was inaugurated in December.
Macri pledged during the campaign to get to the bottom of the Nisman mystery, and promised justice when he met last month with Nisman’s daughters, who are plaintiffs in the case.
Nisman’s body was discovered less than a day before his scheduled appearance in Congress to outline his accusation that Fernandez tried to cover up Iran’s role in the 1994 truck bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people were killed and more than 300 were wounded.
Nisman, who had been leading Argentina’s probe into the bombing, was found on the floor of his apartment, a pistol by his side and a bullet in his head.
Saenz said evidence from the murder weapon proved that Nisman did not kill himself.
“Indisputably, the gun that produced Nisman’s death generally leaves behind shooting residue, but there was none found in the victim’s hands,” he said.
Fernandez claimed Nisman had been tricked by a former Argentinean spy chief and his cronies into fabricating baseless allegations to destabilize her government. She theorized that the ex-intelligence officer then needed to silence him.
“They used him while he was alive and then they needed him dead,” she said several days after Nisman died.
Iran has repeatedly denied any link to the bombing and an Argentinean judge tossed out Nisman’s accusations against Fernandez as baseless.
Saenz on Thursday strongly suggested that the case be moved to a federal court.
“As we are in front of the possibility that Nisman was assassinated four days after that first complaint [against Fernandez], the investigation must be continued by the federal court,” he said.