Federal Prosecutor Drops Criminal Case Against Argentine President

criminal-case-dropped-kirchner-nisman

A criminal case against President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner seemed to dissolve Monday when a federal prosecutor dropped accusations that she and her foreign minister had conspired to shield Iranians suspected of planning the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center here.

The prosecutor, Javier de Luca, said in a court document that there was no crime on which to base an investigation. The case had been brought by another prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, who died of a gunshot wound to the head hours before he was to present his findings before Congress.

Mr. Nisman, who had conducted a lengthy inquiry into the bombing, which killed 85 people, charged that Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite movement, carried it out and that Iranian officials planned and financed it.

In a criminal complaint, Mr. Nisman said that an agreement between Argentina and Iran to expedite the investigation into the bombing was actually the veneer for a secret deal in which Argentina, under the orders of Mrs. Kirchner, promised to absolve former Iranian officials accused of masterminding the attack. In exchange, Mr. Nisman wrote, Iran would send oil to Argentina to ease its crippling energy deficit.

The bombing case remains unresolved.

The body of Mr. Nisman, 51, was discovered on the bathroom floor of his apartment on Jan. 18. A pistol was found on the floor beneath the body and a spent cartridge was also at the scene. There was no suicide note.

His death divided and fascinated the nation, and suggestions of a shadowy power struggle between the premier spy agency and the government fueled speculation over how he died.

A private inquiry commissioned by Mr. Nisman’s former wife found that he had been murdered, and the first journalist to report the death fled to Israel, saying he feared for his life.

Thousands of Argentines took to the streets to show their anger at the unsolved bombing, widely considered a national disgrace, and to demand a full and transparent investigation into Mr. Nisman’s death.

After first suggesting that Mr. Nisman had shot himself, Mrs. Kirchner shifted, saying that she believed he had been killed, pointing to previous “cases of suicide” that were never cleared up. Mrs. Kirchner and her inner circle vehemently rejected Mr. Nisman’s accusations of wrongdoing and cast suspicion on a range of figures, including the assistant who lent Mr. Nisman the gun and an ousted spymaster who worked with Mr. Nisman.

Mrs. Kirchner and Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman, whom Mr. Nisman had also accused of being part of a cover-up, pointed to statements from Interpol’s former secretary general that they had never sought to lift arrest warrants for Iranians suspected of being involved in the bombing.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Jonathan Gilbert