Monday, January 19, 2015

Dramatic death in Argentina with political repercussions

You know that Argentine prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, that I've been blogging about who last week accused President Cristina Fernández of trying to block investigation of Iranian suspects in the 1994 AMIA Jewish Community Center bombing in Buenos Aires? He was scheduled to present evidence on Tuesday Monday to a group of opposition Members of Congress.

Late Sunday night he turned up dead.

I'll bet somebody in Argentina is working on a novel or movie plot based on this right now. It even has a weird connection to the reaction to the Charlie Hebdo murders. Basically, Nisman, who had been working for years on the AMIA case made an accusation charge that sound something close to groundless to me, so far.

From the early reports, the indications are that it was a suicide. He was found dead in the bathroom of his apartment, which was protected with high security, with a gun in the room. The Buenos Aires Herald reports (Prosecutor Fein: No third party in death of Nisman, 'forced suicide' not ruled out 01/19/2015):

Prosecutor Viviana Fein has confirmed that there was no sign of a third-party being involved in the death of AMIA investigator Alberto Nisman, who was found this morning with a gunshot to the head. The official, however, refused to rule out the possibility that the deceased was obliged to take his own life by some as yet unknown factor.

Today or tomorrow the prosecutor is expected to receive results from the microscopic search carried out electronically on samples taken from Nisman's hands. This will determine whether or not gunpowder residues were present on the prosecutor's person.

The autopsy on the body of the AMIA special prosecutor earlier confirmed that he died from a gunshot to the head, two centimeters below the right ear, sources from the investigation reported.

The preliminary report delivered by the forensic investigators to prosecutor Viviana Fein stated that the body has a bullet hole on the right parietal with loss of encephalic mass.

The bullet was removed from Nisman’s head by forensic surgeons. Its analysis confirmed that it belonged to the .22 caliber Bersa gun that was found next to the body.
His apartment was protected by high security measures, including 10 Federal Police. (Berni: "Hay que ser prudente y responsable" Página/12 20.01.2015)

Nisman's accusation this past week was that President Cristina Fernández was trying to interfere with the AMIA investigation because she wanted to cover up for Iranian suspects. He was scheduled to testify tomorrow before an Argentine Congressional panel composed only of opposition members on his charges. But on Monday he turned up dead. Yo!

The specific charge he was making look preposterous to me. He specifically was saying that Cristina (CFK for short) pressed Interpol to drop their Red Alert status on at least one of the official Iranian suspects. But a recent head of Interpol who had been very involved in this issue wrote a letter saying that the Red Alert status was still on for all the suspects and that CFK's government had never pressured Interpol to drop it. It would also be very much in contradiction to her very public position on the AMIA case, which involves diplomatically pressuring Iran to assist more in the investigation. She specifically raised the issue on this 20+-year old case in a speech at the UN last year.

Politics was involved in this, of course. Cristina's (CFK for short) rightwing opposition griped that she didn't express sympathy loudly enough for the murdered French cartoonists because her party supports terrorist and loves Iran, or something. And then Nisman came out with this charge.

The AMIA case is routinely referred to in the American press when it's mentioned at all as an example of Iran having the capability to project very deadly terrorist attacks into the Western Hemisphere. And that is still Argentina's official theory of the case. But it's never actually been solved. One twist is that Nisman himself several years ago was pushing to bring charges against former President Carlos Menem and three other former officials for impeding investigation of someone with connections to Menem's family, for their possible role in the attack. One of the Wikileaks documents showed that in 2008, the Cheney Administration pressured Argentina not to pursue that case against Menem. Presumably because they didn't want anything to get in the way of the narrative that Iran did the deed. So, if (when) the conspiracy theories start flying over Nisman's death, I nominate Dick Cheney as the chief suspect!

Also, BTW, if CFK has been running her own death squad to knock off political opponents, there's no evidence of such a thing in the public record that I've ever heard of. And that is several times less likely than Nisman's accusation against her.

Cristina issued a statement after Nisman's death, which not only seems to express doubt about the official theory of the AMIA case. (AMIA. Otra vez: tragedia, confusión, mentira e interrogantes. 19.01.2015) She also harshes on the paper Clarín, using images of three of its front covers to illustrate questions about Nisman's charges. It recounts various details of the now long history of the AMIA case and appears to be a document that was mainly prepared to answer Nisman's accusation from last week. But the statement starts off recognizing the tragedy of Nisman's death.

Her statement mentions that Nisman cut short a family vacation to come back to Argentina and present his surprising claim against Cristina last week. Her statement points to the likely political cooperation between Nisman and the opposition. This early return from his vacation may or may not turn out to be related to his death, at least in terms of theories about what appears at this writing to have been a suicide. I'm going to try hard not to speculate ahead of the facts becoming public.

Here are several reports from TV Pública argentina on Nisman's death:

Visión 7 - Hallaron muerto al fiscal Nisman 19.01.2015:

Visión 7 - Hallaron muerto al fiscal Nisman (2) 19.01.2015:

Visión 7 - Hallaron muerto al fiscal Nisman (3) 19.01.2015:

Visión 7 - Hallaron muerto al fiscal Nisman (4) 19.01.2015:

Visión 7 - Hallaron muerto al fiscal Nisman (5) 19.01.2015:

Visión 7 - Hallaron muerto al fiscal Nisman (6) 19.01.2015:

Visión 7 - Hallaron muerto al fiscal Nisman (7) 19.01.2015:

Visión 7 - Hallaron muerto al fiscal Nisman (8) 19.01.2015:

Visión 7 - Hallaron muerto al fiscal Nisman (9) 19.01.2015:

Visión 7 - Hallaron muerto al fiscal Nisman (10) 19.01.2015:

Visión 7 - Hallaron muerto al fiscal Nisman (11) 19.01.2015:

Visión 7 - Hallaron muerto al fiscal Nisman (12) 19.01.2015

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