Public prosecutor Fernando Cartasegna, a specialist in investigations into human trafficking and paedophilia, was beaten up, gagged and tied up in his office yesterday in La Plata. This morning, the victim was discharged from hospital but investigators are still trying to identify his attacker, who reportedly surprised Cartasegna from behind.
The lawyer, whose name is well known in the field due to his success in the closure of brothels in the region, was found in a state of shock. He was taken to La Plata’s Hospital Italiano with marks on his neck, as if someone had attempted to strangle him. Buenos Aires provincial prosecutor Julio Conte Grand explained that his colleague had been “tied upside down, his arms and legs behind his back, and he was gagged and threatened.”
This latest attack comes as the third act of aggression against Cartasegna in the last few days. A few weeks ago, as head of the Special Unit for People Trafficking, Cartasegna reported the detection of “a paedophile every seven days in La Plata” and he is currently involved in an inquiry into police corruption and collusion with drug dealers and brothel owners. However, there is no evidence that these intimidations are linked to his latest work.
Another episode of violence took place on Saturday when two men and a woman dressed in police uniforms approached the human trafficking expert and beat him up, just meters away from the Public Prosecution Office.
On Sunday, Cartasegna’s garage was reportedly broken into and, after tormenting the family pets, the offender left leaflets with photos of the prosecutor alongside messages that read: “Meet the next Nisman” and “Death to Nisman”. The captions were, of course, alluding to prosecutor Alberto Nisman who was found shot dead in his apartment two years ago, a day before he was set to present a case against then-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, as well as other high ranking Kirchnerite officials.
At this point, it seems like no coincidence that the latest attack, which took place yesterday, also involved the late lawyer’s name. After assaulting him, in an eerie move to intimidate the lawyer, the attacker also allegedly left a word written in sugar on the floor, but the message was not quite so sweet: “Nisman”.
Following the latest in this string of menaces, Cartasegna was discharged from hospital in La Plata early this morning, accompanied by family members, and Prosecutor Conte Grand granted him leave of absence indefinitely. The provincial attorney also explained that the case would be placed in the hands of prosecutor Ana Medina and assured that Cartasegna would be provided with extra protection from the Federal Police.
“We will also strengthen the security around the Public Prosecution Office,” added Conte Grand last night.
For now, investigators are suggesting that the assailant was wearing gloves but, in any case, they have been looking for DNA traces and any other evidence that might help identify Cartasegna’s attacker. It also seems that the offender escaped through a window of the office and must have known in advance the movements and schedules of the security guards. Investigators are now hoping that CCTV footage from around the Vialidad building will bear some clues.
Another prosecutor, Marcelo Romero, has also weighed in on the recent events, saying: “It’s something unprecedented in the Argentine judicial branch, given the institutional gravity of the situation. They could have easily killed him.”
However, Cartasegna’s case seems to be far from an isolated incident. Last night, another public prosecutor also fell victim to a frightening attack, although seemingly less targeted. Lomas de Zamora prosecutor Juan José González was assaulted in his own home by three armed criminals, who stole money and valuables from the house before taking the lawyer’s son and his girlfriend to a nearby ATM and forcing them to take out 3000 pesos from the young man’s bank account. The two captives were later released in Buenos Aires’s Lanús district.
“The whole episode lasted for about two hours, but luckily all the victims are in good health,” said one of the investigators involved in the case. Once released, the young people contacted the prosecutor and returned home. CCTV footage is now being examined to try and identify the criminals.