Death of Argentina prosecutor investigating 1994 bombing of Jewish community center puts President Cristina Kirchner in the spotlight

Jan 24, 2015 | 0 comments

By Simon Romero and Jonathan Gilbert

Argentina’s government asserted on Friday that an ousted spymaster was involved in the murky events around the death of the prosecutor investigating the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center, with with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner

chief of staff claiming that the prosecutor did not even write a complaint accusing her and top aides of subverting his inquiry.

“It contains horrors that are impossible to commit from a legal point of view,” Aníbal Fernández, the president’s chief of staff, said in a telephone interview referring to the 289-page complaint filed by Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor found dead here from a gunshot wound to the head on Sunday, the day before he was to testify before lawmakers about his accusations.

The death of Mr. Nisman, 51, who had been investigating for a decade the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in which 85 people were killed, has upended Argentina’s political establishment, exposing Mrs. Kirchner to a barrage of criticism over the prosecutor’s accusations while revealing upheaval in Argentina’s main intelligence agency.

Mrs. Kirchner and senior officials in her government have begun to fight back. Mr. Fernández, her chief of staff, said that Antonio Stiusso, a shadowy former intelligence official who was ousted from his post in December, had fed misleading information to Mr. Nisman over the course of his investigation.

Mr. Stiusso, who is believed to be in his early 60s, had a career in Argentina’s intelligence services spanning more than four decades. He wielded power as a director at the Intelligence Secretariat, working for 12 years under Mrs. Kirchner and Néstor Kirchner, her husband and a former president who died in 2010. Efforts to reach Mr. Stiusso on Friday were unsuccessful.

Mr. Fernández said the criminal complaint was of “awful legal quality,” raising doubts over whether it could have been written by someone with Mr. Nisman’s legal background. He did not say who could have written the complaint, which relies extensively on intercepted phone calls thought to have been obtained from intelligence sources.

“The subject worries me,” Mr. Fernández said, referring to Mr. Nisman’s “closeness with the intelligence service.”

The claims of the involvement of Mr. Stiusso in the events around the disclosure of the accusations before Mr. Nisman was found dead, which Mr. Fernández has already made public, follows an assertion on Thursday by Mrs. Kirchner that the prosecutor’s death was not a suicide but part of an effort to destabilize her government.

Mr. Nisman had accused Iranian officials of planning and financing the attack and Hezbollah of carrying it out. He also accused Mrs. Kirchner and top aides of secretly trying to reach a deal to shield Iranians charged with planning the bombing while seeking to expand trade ties.

The government has rejected the accusations, describing the hypothetical oil-for-grains deal as unrealistic and pointing to a statement from Interpol’s former secretary general that Argentina had insisted that arrest warrants for the Iranians remain in place.

In a letter this week, Mrs. Kirchner also wrote that Mr. Nisman had, unknowingly, been fed false information by Mr. Stiusso to sully the government as part of a plot that would end with his death. “The true operation against the government was the death of the prosecutor after accusing the president,” she wrote.

It was Mr. Stiusso who had recently advised Mr. Nisman to take steps to improve his safety, said Diego Lagomarsino, the assistant to Mr. Nisman who lent him the .22-caliber Bersa pistol from which the fatal bullet was fired on Sunday, according to a report indirectly quoting him in the pro-government newspaper Página 12.

While Mr. Lagomarsino, a computer technician, had voluntarily gone before the authorities for questioning after Mr. Nisman was found dead, the prosecutor investigating his death prevented Mr. Lagomarsino from leaving the country on Friday after unsuccessful attempts to locate him.

Shortly after the prosecutor’s move, Mr. Lagomarsino contacted her office and put himself at her disposal for more questioning, according to Télam, the state news agency.

Credit: The New York Times,


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