BUENOS AIRES – A former senior intelligence official told an Argentine judge that Alberto Nisman was killed by a group linked to ex-President Cristina Fernandez, whom the prosecutor had accused of concealing alleged Iranian involvement in a deadly 1994 attack on a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.
“The death of prosecutor Nisman is tied to the accusation that he made,” Antonio “Jaime” Stiuso, a former chief of operations of the now-defunct SIDE intelligence agency who was fired in December 2014, said in testimony earlier this week.
Stiuso, who returned from self-imposed exile to give the statement on Monday, had worked closely with Nisman prior to his death.
His testimony before lower-court Judge Fabiana Palmaghini lasted more than 14 hours on Monday, after which she declared herself unfit to hear the case and referred it to a federal court as a possible homicide.
Her decision is subject to appeal.
Several domestic media outlets published extracts of Stiuso’s statement to the judge, while sources of the legal team advising Nisman’s daughters also confirmed the content of his testimony to EFE.
Nisman, the special prosecutor for the 1994 attack on the AMIA Jewish organization that left 85 dead, was found dead of a single shot to the temple on Jan. 18, 2015, four days after he announced the charges against Fernandez.
He was scheduled to testify the following day before Congress about his accusations against Fernandez, then-Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and five other people.
More than a year after the prosecutor was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment, investigators still have not determined if his death was a suicide or – as Nisman’s family alleges – a homicide.
Nisman’s accusation against Fernandez cited the Memorandum of Understanding her administration signed with Iran in 2013 to facilitate the AMIA investigation as the principal instrument of the purported cover-up.
The charges against Fernandez and Timerman were based on intercepts of telephone conversations about efforts “to erase Iran from the AMIA case,” Nisman’s office said Jan. 14, 2015, in a statement.
The government wanted to eliminate any obstacle to forging closer trade and economic ties with Tehran, the prosecutor said.
Last March, an Argentine appellate panel upheld a lower-court decision dismissing Nisman’s charges against Fernandez.
After another prosecutor had taken up the case following Nisman’s death, a lower-court judge, Daniel Rafecas, ruled in February 2015 that the evidence assembled by Nisman did not provide even minimal support for the accusations.
Thus far the only people charged in connection with Nisman’s demise have been Diego Lagomarsino, a computer technician who lent the prosecutor the gun used in his death, and bodyguards accused of not fulfilling their duties to protect him.
The new developments in the case come just under three months after the inauguration of President Mauricio Macri, who had pledged during his campaign to get to the bottom of Nisman’s death.
Many in the Argentine Jewish community believe the AMIA bombing was ordered by Iran and carried out by Tehran’s Hezbollah allies.
Both the Iranian government and the Lebanese militia group deny any involvement and the accusation relies heavily on information provided by the CIA and Israel’s Mossad spy agency.
Prosecutors have yet to secure a single conviction in the case.
In September 2004, 22 people accused in the bombing were acquitted after a process plagued with delays, irregularities and tales of witnesses’ being paid for their testimony.