Nisman: The Prosecutor, the President, and the Spy

A new Netflix TV series deals with the late Argentina’s Prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s death, still undecided if it was a suicide or a murder case. The series contains several secret and unknown files, and first-class testimonies from people connected to the case, including today’s Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández. The series, however, doesn’t provide clear-cut evidence that could allow a definitive conclusion about the case.

In July 1994, a bombing attack was carried out against the AMIA (Jewish Mutual Association) that left 85 people dead and hundreds injured. It’s considered the deadliest terrorist attack in Argentina’s history. Those responsible for the AMIA bombing remain unknown, although there were some questions about the Iranian government’s participation in the attack.

In 2013, during Cristina Kirchner’s presidency, Argentina and Iran signed a Memorandum of Understanding. The memorandum agreed to the questioning of Iranians accused by Nisman of complicity in the AMIA bombing, and the establishment of a Truth Commission to analyze the evidence regarding Iranian involvement in the AMIA bombing. Since 13 September 2004, Alberto Nisman was the Federal Prosecutor in charge of the AMIA investigation.

In one episode of the series, Diego Lagomarsino, a Nisman’s associate and one of the main suspects for his death, is seen arriving from his house 25 miles away to meet the prosecutor. During that meeting, Nisman had asked him for a gun, according to Lagomarsino. After the meeting took place, the associate went back to his house returning later to Nisman’s apartment, bringing a Bersa gun, .22 caliber. Nisman could have requested the gun when they first talked on the telephone.

When Lagomarsino returned to Nisman’s apartment and took the elevator, he was together with another man, presumably one of Nisman’s bodyguards. This double appearance at the elevator is an interesting fact, because Nisman’s daughters, who acted as private investigators on their father’s death, had provided an expert opinion by criminologists that supported the fact that two individuals, and not just one, were involved in Nisman’s death.

Nisman was killed on January 18, 2015, four days after his public indictment of President Cristina Kirchner and the late Foreign Minister Héctor Timmerman, and one day before he was scheduled to report on his findings to the National Congress. Nisman’s accusation against both Kirchner and Timmerman, was based on the fact that the pact with Iran had a provision that guaranteed immunity for the Iranians involved in the attack to AMIA in exchange of Iranian oil for Argentina.

President Cristina Kirchner and her government were then tainted with suspicion about their participation in Nisman’s death. The country was seriously divided between the ones who believed Nisman’s family opinion (that he had been assassinated) and the ones who believed Kirchner. A few days after Nisman’s death, the accusation against Cristina Kirchner’s government was quickly dismissed.

The situation, however, achieved a new twist when on June of 2018, The Federal Court of Buenos Aires stated that there was no doubt that Nisman’s death was a homicide rather than a suicide, and that his murder was a “direct consequence” of his accusations against then-president Cristina Kirchner of covering up Iran’s role in the AMIA attack. The court thus confirmed federal judge Julián Ercolini’s ruling in December of 2017, that Nisman’s death “could not have been a suicide.”

The discussion about Nisman’s death certainly influenced the result of the presidential election that brought Mauricio Macri to power in 2015. After four years of economic problems, Macri lost the chances for reelection, and once more, a Peronist government came to power, with Cristina Kirchner as vice-President to President Alberto Fernández.

Both Cristina Kirchner and President Alberto Fernández are now changing their opinion about the cause for Nisman’s death, with both supporting the theory of a suicide. How Argentina’s new government handles this case will be a manifestation of its decision to have this tragic event solved.

César Chelala is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award and two national journalism awards from Argentina. Alberto Zuppi is an international attorney and a former Argentine Secretary of Justice.