It has been two years since prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found dead in his apartment, 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. Those original accusations, as well as the investigation over the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death, are situated in a completely different political landscape from where they were a year ago, following two key decisions from the justice system: the Supreme Court’s decision to have his death investigated by the federal justice system; and the Cassation Court’s opening of a formal investigation into his original accusations.
The DAIA umbrella organization of Argentina’s Jewish community, the plaintiff in the second case mentioned above and the organization responsible for getting the investigation opened, organized a march in his honor in front of what it used to his office at 6 PM. Those who share DAIA’s stance on the case are hopeful over the outcome of the numerous probes that Federal Judge Ariel Lijo and prosecutor Taiano will order once court comes back into session from summer recess.
Two years ago today, the country woke up to one of the most shocking news stories in recent history. Special Prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who had filed a formal accusation against then President Cristina Kirchner as well as other high ranking Kirchnerite officials, was found dead in his apartment in Puerto Madero with a single gunshot wound to the head.
Four days before that, Nisman filed a claim in Federal Court that the Kirchner administration had orchestrated a plan to cover up Iran’s role in the 1994 AMIA bombing in exchange for trade deals with the country in question. The agreement, Nisman said, had been sealed with the signing of the so called Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Iran, which despite having formed a bi-national commission tasked with finding the truth over the attack, allegedly served as a front for the real goal: to bury the investigation according to the late prosecutor. He was set to defend these allegations before Congress the next day.
Due to the seriousness of the allegations and the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death, the aftermath of these events brought the country to a virtual halt. During a greater part of the year, the investigation over what caused Nisman’s death and the veracity of his accusations became a political point of contention between those who sided with him — mostly members of the then-opposition — and those who claimed it was nothing but a hoax created to smear the former administration, in particular Cristina Kirchner.
Accusations regarding the performance of the prosecutor and judge in the case, Fabiana Palmaghini and Viviana Fein, and the significance of the — little — evidence found began to pour in. Much later, the Supreme Court decided that regardless of how he died — suicide or homicide — it happened as consequence of his role as prosecutor investigating the AMIA case. This could steer the investigation another way, considering several of Nisman’s colleagues within the federal justice system are more prone to believe the murder theory.
The accusation itself also went on a long legal roller coaster. After two of Nisman’s colleagues — prosecutors Gerardo Pollicita and Germán Moldes — carried on with the accusations. The first two instances where the claims were evaluated in court, under Judge Daniel Rafecas and later in appeals court, reached the conclusion that the accusations were unfounded and the evidence presented wasn’t sufficient to open a formal investigation.
Cassation Court Prosecutor, Javier De Luca, decided to not appeal the decision, and it seemed that was it for the case. But the DAIA, the plaintiff in the case, presented new evidence that managed to get the highest criminal court in the country consider the claim. The judges decided that the case deserved to be formally investigated on December 29th. Judge Ariel Lijo and Prosecutor Eduardo Taiano have been tasked with further investigating the allegations made by the late prosecutor two years ago.
Even though these parallel investigations have yielded more questions than answers two years into the process, the anniversary seems to be giving the cases a second wind.
Judge Lijo is set to order a battery of new investigations once court is back from summer recess in February. In addition to calling new witnesses and going over thousands of wiretapped phone calls, it is expected that the judge will try to shed light on one of the case’s most important questions: who manipulated the content of Nisman’s cellphones and laptop before and after his death.
According to Infobae, the final report on this concluded that almost all data on Nisman’s phone was erased: there was almost no register of phone calls or texts, and the most recent phone call was from January 18th, the day his body was found.
The outlet goes on to report that experts harshly criticized the way Judge Palmaghini tackled the issue, saying she delayed getting some of the evidence and made questionable decisions in the handling of the case. Now the Metropolitan Police and the Border Patrol’s cyber crime departments will work together to try to determine what happened and who was involved.
Aside from the multiple investigations, some who were close to the prosecutor and the investigation are still convinced that he was murdered, and that high ranking Kirchnerite officials were involved.
In an interview with TN, the mother of Nisman’s daughters, Federal Judge Sandra Arroyo Salgado, assured the public that the Kirchner administration acted like a dictatorial regime after his death: “they formed a task force to smear his work,” she said.
Along her two daughters, Arroyo Salgado is a plaintiff in the case investigating Nisman’s death. Arroyo Salgado has been one of the most vocal figures claiming that her ex husband had been murdered and went as far as putting together her own forensics team to perform an independent autopsy on the body. Contrary to the verdict of the 13 out of 15 officials who took part in the official autopsy, who found that “no homicidal actions had been found on the prosecutor’s body,” the forensics team hired by Salgado claimed they found evidence that Nisman had in fact been murdered.
Moreover, the journalist who broke the news of his death, Damián Pachter, reiterated that he believes “the prosecutor’s death was ordered from the higher ranks” of the Government. “I believe it was ordered by the then President, from the highest spheres of power. I believe it was carried out by Argentines and that Iran was involved in some way, likely in a logistical aspect,” Pachter told Infobae.
Days after breaking the story, Pachter left the country for Israel after assuring his life was in danger. “I made the decision when I understood — I saw it for myself — that I was being persecuted by intelligence services. And understood the next step for them would be taking me down,” he added. The events surrounding Nisman’s death became even more strange when state-run news agency Telam published the journalist’s flight details, in what many saw a clear threat against his safety and privacy. When asked about the subject Pachter said “I still don’t think there are enough guarantees for me to come back.”
In contrast, other political actors still claim that the accusation is unfounded, it’s only real goal being to smear the Kirchner administration. The first one to claim this is the former president herself, who in a Facebook post ironically said that “the only thing left for them is to accuse her of Kennedy’s death.”
The Fall Out
“The problem is not whether they open Alberto Nisman’s sloppy and rushed accusation or not. That’s not what the political, legal and media coalition that is always aligned with The United States and Israel’s political right is interested in. What they care about is making sure that governments who advocate for wealth redistribution, the bond with other South American countries, the independence from great international powers, does not come back,” posted the president a day later, quoting an article from Página 12 journalist Raúl Kollman.
That same journalist published an article today listing all the reasons why he believes the former administration had nothing to do with Nisman’s death. Forensics and ballistic studies, an alliance from other members of the judiciary who have a different ideology and their intention to smear Kirchnerism among them.
“Logic indicates the justice system should have concluded Nisman took his life, because that’s what the evidence indicates. However, politics got in the middle and, following the change of Government, the national and international ‘political, legal and media coalition’ is working around the clock to use the case against the former government,” Kollman concludes.
One could argue then that the only certainty here is that this case is yet another piece of evidence that we live in a post-facts era, where both sides are more than prone to dismiss the evidence presented by the other part, labeling it as product of conspiracy. The courts will reach a conclusion about what happened, but the decision will probably only be accepted as being legitimate by one side of the argument.
How the courts arrive to that conclusion, however, will be the interesting part.