Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman (51) received death threats in advance of the January 18 discovery that he was dead in his Buenos Aires apartment. Nisman had been investigating over the last ten years the 1994 terrorist bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center that killed dozens in the Argentine capital. Nisman had accused President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of blocking the investigation. Just hours before he was to testify before the Argentine congress in a closed-door meeting, he was found dead. According to prosecutor Viviana Fein, a .22 caliber pistol was found next to his body in the bathroom of Nisman’s 13th floor apartment in the trendy Puerto Madero neighborhood of Buenos Aires. His mother found his lifeless corpse in the apartment after he had failed to respond to repeated telephone calls.
The AMIA bombing in 1994 killed 85 people and injured 300 others in the worst terrorist incident in Argentine history. Argentina had had a previous terrorist bombing in 1992 at the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires killed 29. Nisman had also accused former President Carlos Menem (1989-99) of obstructing the probe into the AMIA bombing. Neither incident has ever been solved.
Last week, Nisman said in a radio interview that unknown persons were "likely to kill me" in order to bring the probe to a halt. He added, "from today my life has changed. I told my daughter she is likely to hear awful things about her father." Opposition lawmaker Patricia Bullrich was shocked by his death. She said it was "a grave affront to the country's institutions." Bullrich spoke to Nisman three times on January 17, and said that he had fielded several death threats.
Argentine courts have demanded since 2006 the extradition of eight Iranian nationals, including former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, former defense minister Ahmad Vahidi, and former diplomat Mohsen Rabbani. According to an Argentine prosecutor, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani was on the Iranian committee that planned the AMIA bombing. Argentina asserts that Hezbollah – the Lebanese Shiite Muslim terrorist organization aligned with Iran – committed the bombing.
Nisman had claimed that he had telephone intercepts that proved that the Argentine government under President Fernandez de Kirchner had swapped grain for oil so as to terminate the investigation. Prosector Nisman was to present his allegations that both the president and Foreign Minister Hector Timerman had plotted to provide impunity to the Iranian fugitives. In addition, Nisman had ordered the freezing of $23 million in assets belonging to Fernandez de Kirchner, Timerman and others.
Argentina's Jewish population of about 300,000 is the third largest Jewish community in the world.
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