Almost a month after the mysterious death of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman, even the uncertainties seem uncertain.
Why was a trace of DNA conspicuously left on an espresso cup in his sink found only two days ago?
Why is the prosecutor investigating his death withholding the release of the autopsy and forensic reports until the 18th of February, the day a march has been scheduled in Nisman’s memory?
Was it suicide, “suicide,” or homicide and, if the latter, could Iran have had a hand in his killing or was his death necessarily the result of growing internal warfare within Argentina’s Intelligence Secretariat? The two theories of murder do not conflict: in his last days, Nisman accused rogue sectors of Argentine intelligence of surreptitiously transmitting information to Tehran.
The Argentine government has only fomented doubts by zigzagging among the theories. Lately, it has come (again) to support the hypothesis that he killed himself, despite the belief prevalent among Argentines that he was killed.
Nisman, the federal prosecutor charged with investigating the 1994 bombing at the AMIA building, Buenos Aires’s Jewish community center, in which 85 people died, was found lifeless in a pool of blood in his bathroom on January 18th, a single bullet in his head.
He was hours away from informing the Argentine parliament about accusations that President Cristina Kirchner conspired to cover-up Iran’s responsibility for the AMIA attack and the 1992 bombing at the Israeli embassy.
Sergio Bergman, a member of the parliamentary committee that summoned Nisman to provide testimony, downplays its importance in the chain of events. “His presentation had no real standing. It was simply a measure of caution we extended to him to protect his evidence,” he says.
Bergman, like a growing number of Israeli officials, believes that Iran is behind Nisman’s death.
“I have absolutely no doubt Iran killed him,” he declared, in an exclusive interview with Haaretz while on a visit to Israel.
“There is no doubt. You do not have to be crazy to suggest that Iran is involved in his death. It’s not a delusion. To the contrary: Tehran has always been involved here, mixed up with the intelligence services, making agreements with the government, planting spies, in some ways invading us. Iran decides what it does here.”
Just before dying, Nisman accused Kirchner of occluding Iran’s involvement in terror through a secret Memorandum of Understanding signed by the two nations in 2013. He told his fellow parliamentarian, Patricia Bullrich, that he had been “sentenced to death in Iran.”
Israeli suspicions over Iran's involvement
Israel shares Bergman’s position. A source close to military intelligence says there are “heavy suspicions” about Iran’s involvement, adding he has no doubt that the crime was carried out with “local participation.”
If that were the case, the Argentine government, by suggesting the prosecutor ended his own life, would be persisting in the very behavior Nisman was investigating: covering up the tracks of Iranian terror in Buenos Aires.
Israel and Argentina share an unhappy history in this respect. Irit Kohn, the former Director of the International Division at the Israeli Justice Ministry and currently the president of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, says “Argentina did everything possible to evade our requests,” when she was probing the embassy bombing. “It was already clear to us that the Iranians were involved. We had information about the Iranians — that it was basically one of their operations — and the Argentinians maneuvered not to bring us the materials we were asking for.”
Bergman, a member of the opposition Propuesta Republicana party, the rabbi of the Congregation Israelita Argentina and the founder of Memoria Activa, an activist group formed in 1994 to call for justice in the AMIA case, cannot provide concrete evidence to bolster his arguments.
Instead, he builds a circumstantial case focused on the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“Nisman’s death is exactly like the AMIA bombing. There is a local connection; the police guards for some reason are not where they should be; you see local participation and Iranian technology and professionalism,” he argues. “This is not the kind of shoddy work you see among Argentinians.”
In 2006, Nisman became the first person to file an international arrest warrant for high officials in the Iranian government, whom he blamed for planning and carrying out the AMIA attack. A year later, Interpol accepted his evidence and issued Red Notices.
With his disappearance from the scene, Bergman claims, Tehran “eliminates a guy who devoted 10 years to them, who did something no one had ever done: he brought them face-to-face with Interpol to provide explanations which have been recorded.”
“It’s so easy to do things in Argentina,” he says, adding that from the perspective of Iran “it is so irritating that in country as exposed as Argentina, in a uni-personal state with no institutions, that specifically here a prosecutor went so far as to besmirch Iran’s name. And who was he? A nobody. Nisman was a nobody. A Jew.”
With Nisman gone from the scene, Bergman is certain the investigation has died. “No one is going to mess around with Iran any more,” he says.
That is precisely the fear of Nisman’s colleagues in the federal prosecutors’ office, who have called for Sunday’s massive silent march to remember him.
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