Everyone assumes it was an assassination—an audacious hit on a major political figure the day before he was going to make a a biting public speech with plenty of accusations. The bold take-out of a very bold man. Even the then-president of Argentina, Christina Fernandez de Kirchner, a target of Alberto Nisman and a popular suspect in his death, asserted it was a hit, by someone else, of course!
But are we sure the death was a murder, only staged to look self-inflicted, and not really a suicide? And if it wasn’t, who had the wherewithal to kill a man with his own security detail, then disappear like smoke?
Every wrinkle tells more about the brutal maze which is Argentinian politics, mixed with international intrigue.
Come with us on a journey to follow the death of a reformer, Alberto Nisman.
DEADLY PREJUDICE, DEADLY CHARISMA, IN ARGENTINA
Nisman died mysteriously in 2015, but the story goes back to 1994…
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The bomb blast that ripped through a Jewish center in Buenos Aires and killed 85 people in 1994 continues to cause shock waves in Argentina’s politics.
Twenty-three years after the bombing, two former presidents have been indicted, a slew of Iranian officials are accused, a campaigning prosecutor is dead from a bullet in the head, but no one has ever been charged in the original attack.
On Thursday, a prosecuting magistrate ordered the arrest of former president Cristina Kirchner and called on the Senate to begin procedures to strip her of parliamentary immunity.
On July 18, 1994, a bomb destroyed the headquarters of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA), leaving 85 dead and 300 people wounded.
It followed the bombing of Israel’s embassy in Buenos Aires two years earlier, which killed 29 people and wounded 200.
Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah terror is accused of the carrying out bombings at Iran’s demand.
Alberto Nisman was appointed special prosecutor by Kirchner’s husband, then president Nestor Kirchner, and he quickly showed his investigation would be far-reaching.
On his request, British authorities in 2003 arrested Iran’s former ambassador to Buenos Aires, Hadi Soleimanpour, but he was released on bail for lack of evidence.
APF.com, 8 December 2017
That’s the triggering event, that second bombing, aimed just as squarely at Jews as the attacks we’re used to seeing in the Middle East On Argentina’s scale it was a 9-11, Twin Towers type of catastrophe. They weren’t used to bombs going off in their largest city, killing scores of people.
The anti-semitic Iranian state is suspected. Thus, for a quarter of a century now, a huge, nasty question mark has hung over that memory. Was it a vicious, sideway strike at the Jewish state by targeting a major Jewish center in South America, as most allege?
And the further allegation is what brings us to Argentinian prosecutor Alberto Nisman. He was chief among those who claimed that the investigation into Iranian involvement was soft-peddled deliberately, in exchange for political favors.
“I don’t expect any justice from you,” Kirchner, reading from a 17-page prepared statement, told the federal judge Claudio Bonadío on Thursday.
Kirchner is facing accusations of treason and plotting a cover-up for signing a 2012 pact with Iran that would have allowed senior Iranian officials accused of the deadly attack to be investigated in their own country, rather than in Argentina.
Senators enjoy immunity from prosecution, although this week congress stripped a former minister in Kirchner’s government of his immunity as part of a corruption inquiry.
“This is a great judicial absurdity,” said Kirchner. “The aim of this judicial persecution is to intimidate opposition leaders in congress. They want a submissive congress.”
APF.com, 8 December 2017
It’s hard enough to judge politics in your own country, figure out what’s a genuine prosecution, what’s a set-up.
And the death of Nisman just before his much-anticipated speech?
YES, NISMAN WAS MURDERED…BY SOMEONE ELSE
At times, forensic science supports popular “common sense.” Nobody much believes that this guy just happened to beg for a gun, borrow it, and shoot himself before delivering a speech he’d worked on for weeks.
Nisman was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment on January 18, 2015, from a gunshot wound to his head. Days earlier, he had filed a report accusing former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and other officials of covering up Iran’s involvement in a 1994 Jewish community center bombing that left 85 people dead and more than 300 wounded.
Initially, Fernández and others called his death a suicide. But tests found no gunpowder residue on Nisman’s hands or traces of blood on his arms to suggest the bullet wound was self-inflicted, judge Julián Ercolini wrote in a 656-page ruling.
“The death of Prosecutor Nisman was not a suicide, and was brought about by a third party and in a painful manner,” Ercolini said in the ruling.
In the ruling, Ercolini charged Diego Lagomarsino with accessory to murder. Lagomarsino was the last person inside the prosecutor’s apartment, and Nisman was killed with a weapon belonging to Lagomarsino, the judge said.
Lagomarsino, an IT security expert who worked for Nisman, has maintained that he gave Nisman his gun at the prosecutor’s insistence. According to Lagomarsino, Nisman called him to his home on January 17 worried for his safety. But Lagomarsino has insisted he had nothing to do with Nisman’s death.
When he died, Nisman was overseeing the investigation of the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association.
In his report, Nisman alleged that Fernandez and Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman wanted to cover up Iran’s involvement in order to boost trade — specifically, oil imports and grain exports — with the Islamic republic.
CNN, Tue December 26, 2017
There you have it, officially…or do you?
Sherlock must always keep his mind open. Did the political leverage shift from forces, such as the former President, who might have pulled any string to have Nisman silenced, to political players who could influence an investigation towards “murder” findings.
At this distance, we simply don’t know enough about the inner workings of power in Argentina, about how transparent forensic science is. Assuming–and assumptions are tricky in mystery studies–assuming the information from the medical examiners is correct, Nisman could not have killed himself.
Then, who did?
DOES SHERLOCK HAVE AN OPINION?
Before a little Sherlock imagination to what might have happened to Nisman, one more example of world press coverage, this time focused on a visit by Israeli leaders.
Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday used the first Latin America visit of a sitting Israeli prime minister to praise President Mauricio Macri’s effort to solve the bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center in 1994 that killed 85 people.
Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri gives Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a box with hard drives containing all of Argentina’s government archives related to the Holocaust during a ceremony at the Casa Rosada Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires, Argentina September 12, 2017. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci
Argentine courts have blamed the attack on Iran. But no one has been brought to trial in either that case or the deadly 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires. Iran denies playing a role in either attack.
“We know without a doubt that Iran and Hezbollah initiated and backed up the attacks,” Netanyahu told reporters. Hezbollah is an Islamist militant group based in Lebanon.
He praised fellow conservative Macri for jump-starting efforts to solve the crimes. Critics accuse previous Argentine leader Cristina Fernandez of trying to improve ties with Iran rather than focusing on bringing the bombers to justice.
“He strengthened Argentina’s position compared with what it was before. I honor his commitment and the integrity of his effort to determine what happened,” Netanyahu said.
Under Fernandez, the prosecutor probing the attack on the AMIA Jewish community center was found dead in January 2015, just hours before he was to appear in Congress to outline his accusation that Fernandez had tried to clear the way for a “grains for oil” deal with Iran by whitewashing Iran’s role in the truck bombing.
The prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, was discovered on the floor of his Buenos Aires apartment with a pistol by his side and a bullet in his head. The death was (originally) classified as a suicide, but Nisman’s family and friends dismissed that idea as absurd.
Opinion polls show most Argentines believe his death was a homicide.
Reuters, September 12, 2017
So, the double-whammy of terrorism aimed at the Jewish presence in Argentina, the bombing of the Embassy and of the Jewish Center, stands as a tragic memory and blemish for the nation. The echos, it seems, can still create an earthquake in politics.
It’s in that context that Nisman’s speech in 2015, with expected accusations, names, surprises, was anticipated. And then, that morning, he was found to have “committed suicide.”
A story that few believed. Apparently, a story soon contradicted by physical evidence.
Murder. But by whom, and why, if it’s beyond the obvious?
- The most obvious, Christina de Kerchner had the political juice and the motive. But wouldn’t she think it a was little too obvious?
- Anti-Isreali forces loose in Argentina, making sure Nisman’s muckraking did not come back to bite terrorist groups. Or to warn off such investigators, let them know just who they were dealing with.
- Someone with an entirely different axe to grind versus Alberto Nisman. Wouldn’t this be the perfect setting–have him hit, and know that suspicion would fall elsewhere?
Those may not be all the possibilities.
The section is for the serious mystery analyst to speak.