Can Argentina Be Trusted to Fairly Investigate the Mysterious Death of Alberto Nisman?

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The investigation into the circumstances that led to the death of Argentinean prosecutor Alberto Nisman is underway.

Journalists who spoke with prosecutor Nisman as well as his ex-wife, his mother and others who knew him have pointed out that Nisman was not the kind of person that would have committed suicide. Others believe that Mr. Nisman was extremely motivated to expose his findings to the Argentinean Congress and cannot fathom why the prosecutor would take his life just hours before his testimony.

During the course of his investigation, Mr. Nisman apparently found that the Argentinean government intentionally tried to undermine the investigation. In doing so the government was attempting to exonerate Iran from responsibility for the 1994 bombing of the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires (AMIA), with the ultimate purpose of normalizing relations with the Islamic Republic. This was consistent with the signature of a memorandum of understanding between Iran and Argentina signed early in 2013. and )

Now what is more worrisome is the attitude of the Argentinean government. President Cristina Kirchner first issued a communiqué through Facebook where she declared, with conviction, that Nisman committed suicide.  Far from expressing any indignation or supporting a full investigation, Ms. Kirchner adopted a very defensive attitude stating all the Kirchner government has done to advance the investigation of the AMIA bombing even though no verdict has been reached on the matter for twenty-one years.

Then she attacked Nisman, himself. She raised suspicions about the prosecutor by asking why Nisman returned so suddenly to Argentina from a vacation when apparently he was to have returned much later. In that way, Ms. Kirchner claims if Nisman had the document accusing the government of a cover up ready before his vacation, why didn’t he reveal it at that time and why did he return so suddenly from his vacation.

In this way, Ms. Kirchner suggested that it was not really Nisman who had prepared the document but that somebody else did. Thus, the accusation against her was the result of a conspiracy prepared by the former chief of the intelligence service, Antonio Stiuso, whom Ms. Kirchner fired a few weeks earlier.

In fact, she suggested that the Nisman accusation was a political act against the government and not the result of an independent, objective judicial investigation. Then she proceeded to blame opposition newspapers for publishing information against her government.

Ms. Kirchner began to raise speculative hypotheses. She asked;  “Isn’t this a coincidence that Mr. Nisman received a weapon from an employee from his own office”?

Indeed, the employee who provided a weapon to Nisman is the only one indicted so far. According to his version, Nisman requested the weapon because he did not trust his bodyguards who were members of the Federal police. The indictment is based on the fact that he provided the weapon to Mr. Nisman.

However, members of the Federal police in charge of Nisman’s security were interrogated and investigators found contradictions in their testimony. Two of them were fired from the Federal Police for negligence in their duties to protect Nisman.  Investigations of members of the Federal (National) Police continue. I assume that further investigations will follow if it is determined that there is a connection between their negligence and Nisman’s death.

In a second communiqué, Ms. Kirchner, again, interfered in the investigation by raising new hypotheses and theories of what might have happened. This time she claimed that she is convinced that it was not a suicide. In fact, Kirchner argues, “”Nisman’s accusations were not the real act against the government. Nisman’s death was”. Kirchner suggested that the noise of the unfounded accusation   plus the atmosphere generated by events in France made Nisman’s death a more dramatic event and a key piece to destroy the current Argentinean government.  “They used Nisman while he was alive and then they needed him dead”.

In a third communiqué that was broadcast on national television Ms. Kirchner proposed to dismantle the country’s intelligence secretariat, altogether. The idea behind this is that the former chief of intelligence, Mr. Stiuso, was closely associated with Nisman. Stiuso was fired from the institution three weeks before Nisman’s death. According to Kirchner’s theory it was Stiuso who wrote the Nisman report and not Nisman, himself. President Kirchner claimed that the intention was to harm her government; not to seek the truth.

Curiously enough, Stiuso’s power grew exponentially under the government of Nestor and Cristina Kirchner. The intelligence service budget reached 800 million dollars and its operations included wiretapping of political opponents. In fact, Kirchner liked the idea of having an intelligence service loyal to the government. According to Argentinean journalist, Uki Goni writing for  “The Guardian” and quoting an anonymous intelligence source, said that when Ms. Kirchner found out in October, 2014 that Nisman was preparing to press charges against her for an alleged cover up of Iran’s role in the bombing, she was angry at Mr. Stiuso for not alerting her. By late December, she began to suspect that it was Stiuso who had brainwashed Nisman against her and then she proceeded to fire Stiuso and began preparing to dismiss Nisman, as well.

Furthermore, a journalist from the Buenos Aires Herald, Damian Pachter was the first one to report on Nisman’s death on Sunday January 18th in the evening. Mr. Pachter felt that unknown people, probably from the intelligence service, were following him. He fled Argentina first to Uruguay and then to Israel. The Kirchner government made public Pachter’s itinerary thanks to information provided by the state owned airline, Aerolineas Argentinas, which is fully controlled by Kirchner loyalists. The publication of Pachter’s plane ticket and schedule was a government act that endangered the security of the journalist and raises suspicions as to why he was followed and why the government published such information.

Likewise, Nisman’s ex-wife received threats.

There is another curious thing. On the pages of a daily newspaper loyal to Ms. Kirchner, one of the journalists wrote that Mr. Stiuso worked more for the  Mossad and the CIA than for the Pink House” (The Argentinean  government).

Another journalist loyal to Kirchner wrote, this time on the pages of the New York Times, that Syria might have been more responsible than Iran for the bombing and that accusing Iran was a conspiracy orchestrated by then Argentinean President Carlos Menem and then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to cover up for Syria.

I believe this statements, although written by journalists, exactly reflects the ideas that President Kirchner is trying to plant in the minds of Argentineans , namely, Nisman and Stiuso were not loyal to Argentina but to the U.S and Israel, thus appealing nationalist and chauvinistic elements that in Argentina is not hard to find..

Although, there is no proof that Nisman was murdered or that the Argentinean government ordered the murder, the attitude of the Argentinean government is inappropriate and I would say also suspicious. By raising unfounded theories in the midst of a judicial investigation, the government seems to be trying to intentionally confuse the public. But besides this, Ms. Kirchner’s attitude is unconstitutional and illegal. One of the leaders of the Prosecutor’s Association in Argentina demanded restraint from the president when referring to a case under investigation. In response, President Kirchner claimed that she has a right of free expression and that all Argentinean citizens are equal. Yet she forgot that she represents the executive power, not just another citizen and that the division of powers is an institutional reality in any working democracy. The president’s attitude is outrageous as she makes the disgraceful Argentinean institutional system worse than it is. Argentina does not seem to be a country of laws but has turned into a Republic of fear.

Therefore, Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fl) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ)’s demand that that an independent international investigation be conducted is justified.

The manipulative attitude of the Argentinean government on an issue that involves a serious security problem for the U.S. (namely the Iranian involvement in a major terrorist attack) deserves an international response aimed at putting pressure on the Argentinean leaders.

If the investigation of Nisman’s death and the follow up of the Nisman report continue to be undermined, the U.S. should deny visas to or declare members of the Argentinean government persona non grata.

Luis Fleischman

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