The plot thickens in the shooting death of Argentina’s federal prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, as the first journalist to report on the case flees the country.
The investigator – who four days earlier had given a judge a report on a government deal to prevent prosecution of former Iranian officials over the 1994 bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish center – was shot from a distance of at least 15 centimeters (6 inches).
That’s no suicide, as government officials such as President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner initially claimed.
Forensic examination also showed the bullet wound to Nisman’s head had no exit wound – which it would have, had the gun been pressed to his skull as in a suicide.
The 10 police officers assigned to protect him have been suspended and are under investigation, according to The Associated Press. Lead investigator Viviana Fein questioned the two officers assigned to the door of Nisman’s building and will ultimately decide whether to try them, and on which charges if so.
The prosecutor was found in his bathroom Sunday night with a .22 caliber handgun next to his body – making it appear to the untrained eye as if he committed suicide – the day before he was to testify at a congressional hearing over the Jewish center bombing case.
Diego Lagomarsino spoke with authorities soon after Nisman’s death, saying he had given the .22 to the prosecutor because he wanted it for protection. He is not named as a suspect. However, justice officials say he now cannot be located. They have ordered that he be barred from leaving the country – if he hasn’t already skipped town – without first securing permission from the authorities.
Well aware of his risks, Nisman took precautions and had already handed the judge in the case his 289-page report. Nisman had alleged that President Kirchner had secretly cut a deal to prevent the prosecution of former Iranian officials who were accused of being involved in the 1994 car bombing that killed 85 people and wounded more than 200 others.
Argentina allegedly agreed to withdraw the “red notices” on Interpol seeking the arrests of former and current Iranian fugitives in the unsolved case, in exchange for exporting grain to Iran, who would pay with oil.
Initially Kirchner posted a letter on social media saying she was convinced Nisman had killed himself, but quickly reversed that stance as evidence began to flow in. Her second posting asserted that she was convinced it was no suicide.
Instead, the president wrote that Nisman’s allegations were based on “false information” given to him by the former head of intelligence services. This second letter, published Thursday, avowed that Nisman’s death was a deliberate attempt to damage the credibility of her administration.
Meanwhile, Damian Pachter, a journalist for the English-language Buenos Aires Herald, is on his way to Israel.
Pachter, who is Jewish and is an Israeli citizen, was the first to report the death of Alberto Nisman. He told several Israeli publications he was planning to seek refuge in the Jewish State.
“I left because my life was in danger. My phones were being monitored. I intend to return to Argentina when my sources tell me conditions have changed. I don’t think that will happen in the term of this government,” he told a local internet site.
His employer said in a statement the newspaper was willing to help him in any way possible and that he had not expressed his concerns at the time.
Pachter left Argentina on Saturday, according to Foro de Periodismo Argentino, the local journalism group, which added the reporter had said he was being followed on Friday and felt unsafe.