From Suicide to Assassination: What's Behind the Latest Developments in the Case of Alberto Nisman's Death?

An Argentine federal judge ruled the federal prosecutor's death a homicide. Here's what comes next

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A demonstrator holds a sign that reads "I am Nisman" during a protest after the death of Alberto Nisman, Buenos Aires, Argentina, January 19, 2015.
A demonstrator holds a sign that reads "I am Nisman" during a protest after the death of Alberto Nisman, Buenos Aires, Argentina, January 19, 2015. Credit: Rodrigo Abd/AP

An Argentine federal judge ruled on Tuesday that the death of Alberto Nisman was a homicide. Nisman, a federal prosecutor, was found dead from a gunshot wound on January 18, 2015, hours before he was scheduled to provide explosive testimony against then-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, whom he accused of conspiring to cover up Iran’s responsibility for the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.

Judge Julián Ercolini's ruling ratifies the findings of a dossier that Argentina’s border police published last October, which concluded that Nisman was killed.

Ercolini also charged Diego Lagomarsino, a former computer technician who worked for Nisman, as an accomplice to the murder.

Nisman, who was Jewish, devoted a decade of his life to investigating the 1994 bombing. His death was initially classified a “suspicious death,” not a homicide, leading to widespread speculation that he may have killed himself.

According to the decision, forensic evidence proves a suicide was “not possible.” Ercolini’s ruling clears the path for a full investigation into who killed him, and who ordered the killing.

From now on, Nisman's death will be treated as a homicide, possibly as a political assassination, and a suspect will be tried. It places the onus on Kirchner and senior officials in her government, who are likely to be questioned in the matter.

Earlier this month, Kirchner was indicted for obstruction of justice in the case that Nisman was investigating at the time of his death, allegations she says are “absurd.”

Gabriel Bracesco, a police reporter and author of the book “Suicided,” which discusses Nisman’s death, told Haaretz that “the difference between what was said in October and what is being said now is that the earlier report was the result of a forensic probe that could have been accepted or rejected by the authorities. Ercolini’s ruling means that the judiciary itself now confirms and endorses the hypothesis that he was murdered. It is now viewed as an uncontested fact. That is the big difference.”

“It is one thing for investigators to say, ‘this is what we uncovered,’” he continued, “but it is entirely another things for a magistrate to say, ‘the investigation’s conclusions are valid and we are talking about an assassination.’”

For the Jewish leadership, the ruling is another step in a 24-year-long seemingly endless judicial saga that followed the 1994 terror attack, which left 85 dead and hundreds wounded. “We are encouraged by the clear progress being made in the case,” said Alberto Indij, an attorney and the vice president of the DAIA, the umbrella organization of Jewish institutions in Argentina, in an interview with Haaretz. “The fact that he was murdered had already been proved by the forensic investigation made public last October, but the indictment of Lagomarsino is a new and important step. The accumulation of evidence proving that Nisman was murdered is so huge it is heartening we are no longer debating the matter and can move ahead to investigate the perpetrators.”

“This step means that from this point forward, Alberto Nisman’s death will be investigated as a homicide, period,” says Ricardo Sáenz, a fellow federal prosecutor and friend of Nisman. “If the investigation announced in October made that clear, we now have the determination of a judge, who has all the elements of the case at his disposal, ruling that the evidence supports the investigation’s conclusions and that the question of how Nisman was killed has been conclusively resolved.”