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Argentine prosecutor who accused Fernandez of Iran plot found dead

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Argentine prosecutor who accused Fernandez of Iran plot found dead
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: An Argentine prosecutor whoaccused President Cristina Fernandez of orchestrating a cover-upin the investigation of Iran over the 1994 bombing of a Jewishcommunity center was found dead in his apartment, authoritiessaid on Monday.

Alberto Nisman, who had been delving into the blast at theAMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85people, said Wednesday that Fernandez opened secretivediscussions with Iran and at least one of the men suspected ofplanting the bomb.

He said the scheme was intended to clear the suspects sothat Argentina could start swapping grains for much-needed oilfrom Iran, which denies any connection with the bombing.

Nisman was found dead on Sunday night in his apartment inthe posh Buenos Aires neighborhood of Puerto Madero, Argentina‘ssecurity ministry said. A 22-calibre handgun and a single bulletcasing were found next to his body, the ministry said.

“Everything indicates it was a suicide,” National SecuritySecretary Sergio Berni told local television. “We have to see ifgunpowder is found on his hands.”

Preliminary autopsy results from the morgue suggested “therewas no third-person intervention in Nisman’s death,” the officeof state prosecutor Viviana Fein said in a statement.

Fein told reporters she “could not rule out a provokedsuicide” whereby someone forced or blackmailed Nisman to killhimself.

Nisman, who had seemed combative in recent interviews ratherthan frightened, had been due to take part in what promised tobe a tough closed-door hearing in Congress on Monday to explainhis accusations. Lawmakers allied with Fernandez said they wereready to grill Nisman about the charges.

On Monday those lawmakers told reporters they were shockedby the news and also suspected more than a straightforwardsuicide. “We want to know which mafiosi sector pushed theprosecutor to take this decision,” said Julian Dominguez, wholeads the ruling coalition in the lower house of Congress.

The prosecutor’s security guards alerted his mother onSunday afternoon that he was not answering his front door orphone. She found the door to his apartment locked from theinside and got a locksmith to open it. She found her son’s bodyon the floor of the bathroom and called the police.

‘ALONE’

“He was alone in the apartment,” prosecutor Fein toldreporters. “There are no witnesses.”

Officials said the cause of Nisman’s death would beannounced in the days ahead.

Thousands of Argentines signed up on social media to join marches set to take place throughout the country on Monday nightto protest Nisman’s death and call for justice.

The Clarin daily newspaper reported that Nisman told thenewspaper just a few days earlier, “I could end up dead becauseof this.”

Nisman, who had been receiving death threats for years, saidin a separate TV interview he had also been consideringincreasing his security detail.

Israel issued a statement mourning Nisman’s death and urgingArgentine authorities to carry on his work. Argentina‘s mainJewish organizations, AMIA and DAIA, praised his “inalterableimpulse to get to the truth.”

But the judge handling the case of the 1994 bombingcriticized Nisman late last week for taking it upon himself to”initiate an investigation without judicial control” and saidthe evidence he put forth was flawed.

Argentine courts have accused Iran of sponsoring the 1994bombing, a charge Tehran denies. In 2007, Argentine authoritiessecured Interpol arrest warrants for five Iranians and aLebanese over the bombing.

In 2013, Fernandez tried to form a “truth commission” withIran to investigate jointly. She said it would reactivate theinquiry, but Israel and Jewish groups said the move threatenedto derail criminal prosecution of the case.

The truth commission pact was struck down by an Argentinecourt and never ratified by Iran.

Nisman had said the commission was intended to help get thearrest warrants dropped as a step toward normalizing bilateralrelations and opening the door to obtaining Iranian oil neededto help close Argentina‘s $7 billion per year energy deficit.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

 

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