Sunday, 25 January 2015

Argentine President Kirchner: ‘Nisman killed to discredit me’

Argentine President Kirchner: ‘Nisman killed to discredit me’

ARGENTINE President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said yesterday she believes a prosecutor who died under suspicious circumstances was murdered in a plot to implicate her government in a cover-up of a 1994 bombing of a Jewish ­community centre.

Alberto Nisman, prosecutor in the two-decade-old case, was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head in his home on Sunday — the day before he was to go before a congressional hearing to ­accuse Ms Kirchner of shielding Iranian officials implicated in the attack on the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association that left 85 dead.
Investigators have said Mr Nisman appeared to have committed ­suicide, but have not ruled out homicide or an “induced suicide”.
In a post on Facebook, Ms Kirchner contended that ­Mr Nisman was killed to immerse her government in scandal after he had been “used” to publicly accuse her of involvement in the cover-up. “I’m convinced that it was not suicide,” she said.
“Prosecutor Nisman’s charges were never in themselves the true operation against the government. They collapsed early on. Nisman did not know it and probably never knew it.
“The true operation against the government was the prosecutor’s death after accusing the President, her foreign minister and the ­secretary-general of (her political faction) of covering up for the Iranians accused in the AMIA ­attack.”
Ms Kirchner offered no evidence to support her theory, and did not say who she thought was behind Mr Nisman’s death, but aides in ­recent days have pointed to recently sacked intelligence ­officials, including the former chief of operations of the Intelligence Secretariate, Antonio Stiusso, who worked closely with Mr Nisman.
Before his death, Mr Nisman had filed a 280-page complaint charging that Ms Kirchner had ­issued an “express directive” to shield a group of Iranian suspects in the 1994 bombing.
He contended that the government had agreed to swap grain for oil with Tehran in exchange for withdrawing “red notices” to Interpol seeking the arrests of the former and current Iranian officials accused in the case. He backed it up with information from intercepted telephone conversations and reports by two supposed intelligence agents, who the Intelligence ­Secretariat said did not work for them and dismissed as “influence peddlers”.
Opposition leaders denounced Ms Kirchner’s charges as an ­opportunistic about-face. “It’s very serious. To go from supporting the thesis of a suicide, to an assassination, she must assume the consequences,” said Ernesto Sanz, a member of the opposition.
Another Kirchner opponent, deputy Francisco de Narvaez, expressed outrage that Ms Kirchner would take a position on such a sensitive matter while an investigation was under way. “You do not have the right to trample on the independence of the judiciary in this tragedy. I ask you to stop acting like an adolescent trying to gain influence through your Facebook account,” he said.
Since 2006, Argentine courts have demanded the extradition of eight Iranians, including former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and former defence minister Ahmad Vahidi and Iran’s former cultural attache in Buenos Aires, Mohsen Rabbani, for the bombing. In 2013, Ms Kirchner signed a memorandum of understanding with Tehran agreeing to set up a “truth commission”.
The mystery over Mr Nisman’s death has only deepened since he was found in the bathroom of his 13th floor apartment, with a .22-caliber revolver beside his body. Although it appeared to be a suicide, tests detected no powder residue on his hands.
His mother, Sara Garfunkel, who found the body, and his ex-wife have said they do not believe he committed suicide. Viviana Fein, the prosecutor investigating his death, said it was still classified as “doubtful”.

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