Alberto Nisman, an Argentine prosecutor accusing President Cristina Fernández Kirchner of aiding Iranian terrorists to facilitate a trade deal, was found dead Sunday night with a gun at his side. He was slated to testify Monday on his accusations before the nation’s Congress.
The Buenos Aires Herald reports that Nisman, 51, was found in his bathroom. He was lying next to a gun, in a pool of his own blood, and sources tell the paper that authorities are leaning towards ruling it a suicide, though no official word has surfaced yet.
Nisman’s death is especially remarkable in light of the accusations he was scheduled to make on Monday against the Argentine government, and particularly against President Fernández, whose husband, Nestor Kirchner, was still climbing the ranks in Argentine politics at the time. As the BBC explains, Nisman published a 300-page report on Wednesday accusing the government of working to prevent law enforcement from bringing Iranian terrorists to justice in the 1994 bombing of the Israeli-Argentine Mutual Association (AMIA), the deadliest attack in the history of Argentina. Eighty-five people died in the bombing of the Jewish civic center. According to Nisman, the government had conspired to clear a number of the suspects in the bombing–all Iranian and affiliated with the Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah–who were accused of the crime in 2007. To this day, no one has been convicted of bombing the AMIA center.
Nisman had been attempting to convince the Argentine Congress to force President Fernández to testify, accusing her and other officials in power at the time of “deciding, negotiating, and organizing the impunity of Iranian fugitives in the AMIA case with the goal of fabricating Iran’s innocence.” Argentine outlet Infobae distilled the essence of the mammoth 300-page report when it was released last Wednesday: Argentina and Iran were close to reaching a trade deal in which the Latin American nation would receive fuel in exchange for grains and meat. (Argentina signed a similar deal with Russia recently in exchange for military equipment.)
Infobae reporter Laureano Pérez Izquierdo, who knew Nisman personally, writes Monday that Nisman had spent much of the past several months concerned about his well-being. On more than one occasion, friends reported having heard Nisman say that he was “putting [his] life on the line” in bringing the case to light. “They are going to go after me, and they will say anything,” he stated in the past week. Pérez Izquierdo adds that those who spoke to Nisman on Saturday relayed that the prosecutor was concerned that a “strange move” would jeopardize his credibility when he testified to Congress on Monday.
Nisman echoed those concerns publicly. In an interview with the newspaper Clarín last week, he stated, “I could very well come out of this dead.” Additionally, “I wish I were wrong about the institutions of this country,” he told the paper, “but I don’t think so.”
The Israeli government has been the first to respond to Nisman’s death, calling for a full investigation for both the Nisman case and the AMIA bombing. “The state of Israel manifests its hope that Argentine authorities continue Nisman’s [investigative] activities and exert every effort to demand justice for those responsible for the terrorist attacks in Argentina,” the Israeli government said in a statement.
An autopsy investigation is underway, and officials have told the nation’s biggest newspaper, La Nación, that Nisman appears to have died “before dinnertime,” though his body was found close to midnight.