Dead Argentinian prosecutor drafted arrest warrant for president
A draft warrant for the arrest of Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has been found at the apartment of Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor found dead one day before testifying against Kirchner’s alleged role in covering up a deadly bombing.
News of the draft’s existence was first reported by the Argentinian newspaper El Clarin, which stated that the warrant was discovered in Nisman’s trash after he had been found dead from a gunshot wound on January 18. The warrant also requested the arrest of Argentina’s foreign minister, Hector Timerman, according to the New York Times.
El Clarin’s initial report sent shockwaves through Argentina, especially when Viviana Fein, the prosecutor in charge of looking into Nisman’s death, initially denied that the draft existed. That same day, Kirchner’s Chief of the Cabinet, Jorge Capitanich, ripped up a copy of the paper’s report in front of journalists and called it “trash.”
On Tuesday, however, Fien issued a statement confirming the warrant’s existence, saying it had actually been completed back in June 2014. Fien said her original comment on the matter was mistranslated. She also defended her investigation, saying that she is not facing pressure from the government.
The draft’s existence has added another surprising twist to the events unfolding around Nisman’s death. Prior to his death, which was initially called a suicide, Nisman was preparing to testify before the national Congress regarding his claims that Kirchner and Timerman were involved in a cover-up of the deadly 1994 bombing at the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association – a Jewish cultural center. Eighty-five people were killed in the episode, which is suspected to have involved Iran.
According to Nisman, Kirchner and Timerman attempted to craft a deal with Iran that would have allowed the accused Iranians to avoid punishment in exchange for a beneficial trade deal. As part of his evidence, Nisman gathered a file nearly 300 pages long of intercepted phone conversations between Argentinian and Iranian officials, and Nisman claimed that the reason the deal fell apart is because officials were unsuccessful in their efforts to have Interpol remove the arrest warrants against the implicated Iranians.
“So, to clear the obstacle, and here is the criminal [aspect], the President [Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner] ordered to divert the investigation, abandoning years of a legitimate demand of justice and sought to free the Iranian imputed [in the case] from all suspicions, contradicting their proved ties with the attack. She decided to fabricate ‘the innocence of Iran’,” Nisman said in his files, as cited by the Buenos Aires Herald.
If Nisman ever did issue the arrest warrants, the news would have likely plunged Argentina into a major political calamity.
“It would have provoked a crisis without precedents in Argentina,” said Sergio Berensztein, a political analyst, to the Times. Referring to the fact that the warrant would have been issued against a sitting president, he said, “It would have been a scandal on a level previously unseen.”
For her part, Kirchner has called Nisman’s allegations “absurd” and accused the country’s intelligence agencies of being involved in a plot against her government. She has also called for a complete overhaul of Argentina’s intelligence service.
“They used him while he was alive and then they needed him dead. It is that sad and terrible,” she wrote in a letter earlier this month, according to the Buenos Aires Herald.
The allegations by Nisman, who was Jewish himself, sparked widespread uproar in Argentina. He reportedly received death threats by phone and email, and the Times reports that anti-Semitic posters have cropped up in Buenos Aires since his death.