Friday marked the fourth anniversary of the death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, an event that took place four days after he filed criminal charges against then-president Crisitna Fernández de Kirchner and other members of her administration for – in his eyes – seeking to whitewash suspected Iranian responsibility in the 1994 AMIA Jewish center bombing.
Nisman assured that the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Kirchner administration and Iran really intended to cover up the responsibility of Iranian officials involved in the bombing in exchange for trade agreements.
Ever since, much has been said and written, but the actual answers remain scarce. Two federal courts have determined that Nisman was assassinated as a result of his accusation – after a report from Gendarmerie experts concluded so – and Diego Lagomarsino, an IT specialist who worked at the AMIA, has been indicted as a “necessary accessory in the homicide,” mainly for giving Nisman the weapon from which the deadly bullet was fired.
But that’s about it. In June 2018, a Court of Appeals instructed Federal Judge Julián Ercolini to continue and further the investigation. However, in line with the more than slow times of the Argentine judiciary, the investigation continues to move at an extremely slow pace, and the few probes that have been ordered by the officials in charge of the investigation are either still being conducted, or have not even started.
For example: one is an analysis of the security cameras of the building in which Nisman lived. Even though the late prosecutor lived in the extremely expensive Le Parc Tower in Puerto Madero, many cameras didn’t function properly – the security supervisor told the media the system was “very precarious” – and experts now seek to determine what the building’s blind spots were.
Another revolves around thousands of phone calls made by persons of interest to the case, especially intelligence agents. Some of them are: former Spymaster Antonio “Jaime” Stiuso, former Army Chief César Milani, then second in command of the AFI intelligence Agency, Juan Martín Mena. But since the content of the calls cannot be recovered, officials have to create a map of calls in hopes it will allow them to reach a conclusion.
Moreover, La Nación reported last week that Federal Prosecutor Eduardo Taiano found out that, contrary to what he had stated before a court, Lagomarsino sent Nisman two text messages on January 17th, to which he replied. Initially, Lagomarsino had said that Nisman initiated the conversation that would result in the phone call in which the prosecutor allegedly asked him to lend him a weapon to protect himself and his daughters. When confronted with this, Lagomarsino said he had no recollection of the exchange and accused experts of confusing the days of the messages.
On its end, Infobae indicated that “preliminary analysis [on the same exchanges] revealed that [Nisman and Lagomarsino] communicated between January 14th and 17th,” but both deleted most of the conversation, the only remaining message being from January 18th, where the IT expert asked Nisman if he was doing better.
Speaking to El Destape radio, Lagomarsino continued his defense saying that it is usual that people who endure post-traumatic stress forget things, but guaranteed that “there is nothing incriminating in those messages.” “They were probably something like ‘Hey Alberto, how are you, were you able to sleep?'”
He went on to reassure that, in his opinion, Nisman committed suicide: “I forgave him for the mess in which he got me by using my gun to kill himself. He betrayed my trust, but I have forgiven him. Alberto had many reasons to kill himself, I learned about them after reading the case file and being acquainted with many things that made me feel sorry for him.”
The other development in the case is the fact that in late December of 2018, Federal Judge Sandra Arroyo Salgado, Nisman’s ex-partner and mother of his children, ceased being a plaintiff in the case in order to, in her eyes, protect her family.
“Highlighting the repercussions that the event had on my family, as well as the threats received before and after it, which continue to this day,” reads a paragraph of her statement in which Arroyo Salgado resigns the possibility of, for example, requesting probes, appealing decisions and, eventually, being part of a trial. Nisman’s mother, Sara Garfunkel, however, will continue to be a plaintiff.
While the case remains largely stagnant, public figures defending the two clashing theories – assassination and suicide – continue exchanging accusations, indicating that the other party is using Nisman’s death to forward a political agenda.
The recent publication of two books perfectly illustrates this rift. On one end, Cambiemos (PRO) Deputy Waldo Wolff – also a prominent leader of the Jewish community – released in December a book titled Prosecutor Nisman was Murdered, I was a Witness. On the other end, journalist Pablo Duggan released one of his own called Who Killed Nisman? where he categorically assures that the prosecutor committed suicide.
Duggan usually publishes extracts from his book on his Twitter account, where he indicates that Nisman knew his accusation was baseless, and that, as well as a big fight with Arroyo Salgado over their daughters, led him to make the decision.
Both claim to have reached their conclusions after reading the information existing in the case file. Both have reached exact opposite conclusions.
Nisman’s accusation, however, is moving faster than the investigation about his death. After pinballing around different courts, Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio took on the case, in which he ended up indicting the former President and other high-ranking officials for using the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding with Iran as a way to whitewash the country’s officials’ responsibility in the AMIA attack.
Moreover, Bonadio ordered the pre-trial arrest of several people indicted. Late Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman, former Legal and Technical Secretary Claudio Zannini, Jorge “Yussuf” Khalil, Luis D’Elía and Fernando Esteche were some of them. All but Esteche were released about four months later.
On March 5, 2018, Bonadio sent the case to trial. It has not yet started.
Outside the courthouses, different ceremonies were carried out on Friday to remember a new anniversary of Nisman’s death. The Israeli government unveiled a monument and named a forest in his honor. Nisman’s mother was present at the event.
In Argentina, the DAIA Jewish association organized a ceremony in the La Tablada Cemetery, where Nisman is buried. There was also a gathering in the Obelisco, where a project to build a monument in Nisman’s honor was presented.