Thursday, July 18, 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the terrorist bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and wounded 300. Governments all over the world, the United Nations, Jewish organizations will be holding commemorations and once again discussing this mired history. Further, the death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman in 2015, the night before he was to appear before the Argentine Congress to give an oral presentation of his accusations against then President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and the late Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hector Timerman, has given the media enough fodder to feed the public’s desire for conspiracy theories.
Since there will likely be dozens of articles in the English language press on this history, broadly making statements like Nisman was murdered (still not proven), high level Iranian functionaries orchestrated that attack (still not proven), Fernandez de Kirchner secretly agreed to drop the investigation (still not proven), we at BA City Guide offer the following list of facts and questions to consider for anyone reading about the case over the next few days:
1. The initial investigation of the terrorist attack by the Argentine police, with significant assistance from Mossad agents, was not handled well. The gathering of evidence was generally considered to be haphazard. For example, no autopsies or DNA testing were conducted of the remains of the body that was believed to be that of the suicide bomber.
2. The first attempt to resolve the case was based on an investigation to prove a “local connection” to the bombing. However, it was learned that Judge Juan Jose Galeano had bribed a witness with USD 400,000 to testify against the provincial police. Galeano is currently in jail.
3. In 1997, Lawyer Alberto Nisman was invited to join the investigating team, which was led by prosecutors Eamon Mullen y José Barbaccia. In 2004, after Mullen and Barbaccia were removed from the case, following Galeano’s impeachment, Nisman was promoted to be Special Prosecutor on the AMIA case by then President Nestor Kirchner. Nisman was given a staff of 40 people and worked directly with Argentine Intelligence (SIDE).
4. In 2006, Nisman formally accused Iran of planning the attack and Hezbollah of carrying it out. Interpol put out warrants for the arrest of various high level Iranian officials, all of who had diplomatic immunity. Iran denied involvement in the attacks and refused to cooperate with Argentine authorities.
5. Annually, Argentine President Kirchner and then President Fernandez de Kirchner would demand the extradition of the Iranian suspects in front of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
6. On March 26, 2011, journalist Pepe Eliaschev broke a story in the newspaper, Perfil, claiming that the government, through Foreign Affairs Minister Hector Timerman, was negotiating a secret deal with Iran that would require Argentina to abandon its efforts to have the accused extradited. This was followed by heating exchanges and accusations between Timerman and Eliaschev, both Jewish.
7. In 2013, President Fernandez attempted to form a “truth commission” with Iran to jointly investigate the attack, but an Argentinian court later struck down the pact.
8. On January 12, 2015, Nisman filed a criminal complaint against then President Fernandez de Kirchner and Timerman claiming they were obstructing justice through a signed “Memorandum of Understanding” with the Iranian government. The complaint seemed to come out of nowhere (since the news was four years old and Nisman had never made an accusation before) and rumors began to fly that the President had been considering removing Nisman from the case, claiming that it was going nowhere.
9. Nisman filed his complaint (a 300 page report) on January 12, and was to appear before the Argentine Congress on Monday, January 19 to give an oral presentation of his findings and accusations. He spent the weekend in his apartment preparing for his presentation. The last person to see him alive was one of his aides, an IT specialist named Diego Lagomarsino, who at Nisman’s request brought him a .22 caliber Bersa pistol, the same weapon that fired the fatal bullet.
10. Nisman stopped answering calls and responding to messages at some point on Sunday. His bodyguards called his mother and they entered the apartment together. No signs of forced entry were found. Nisman was found dead in his bathroom with a single shot to the temple and the gun beside him. The police accidentally moved the body, as it was blocking them from getting into the bathroom, and there was speculation that the initial process of gathering evidence was poorly handled.
11. Nisman’s death was initially ruled as a suicide by a court in 2015, based on a report by the Forensic Medical Body of the Supreme Court. In 2017, a new judge ordered a second investigation by the National Guard who said that Nisman was drugged, beaten and murdered. In 2018, judges ruled that Nisman’s death was a direct result of his accusations against the former President. The former President is a Senator and has immunity, but the court has yet to produce evidence against Fernandez de Kirchner.
12. In 2015, Federal Judge Daniel Rafecas ruled that Nisman’s 300-page complaint had no substantive evidence against Fernandez de Kirchner and Timerman and was complete speculation. No other ruling or investigation has proven that Nisman’s claims were well substantiated.