On Feb. 18, about half a million people marched in silence throughout Argentina demanding to know the truth about the “mysterious” death of AMIA (Argentine-Israelite Mutual Association building) case Prosecutor Alberto Nisman.
But nearly three months have passed since he was found dead in his apartment, and we still know nothing about what really happened to him. While most of the public believes he was murdered because of the serious complaint he had made against the Argentine government, the prosecutor of the case has not ruled out any hypothesis and, given the many interests involved, it is very hard to believe that the truth will come out, at least in the near future.
As for the complaint itself that Nisman had submitted to court prior to his death, its fate is uncertain. Nisman had accused President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman, and other people close to the government of having negotiated an agreement with Iran (known as “Memorandum of Understanding”) with the goal of helping those accused of being responsible for the AMIA bombing escape justice.
As I explained in a previous article, the Argentine government has always maintained that the Memorandum of Understanding signed with Iran in January of 2013 was the only way to advance a case that was, in their opinion, “paralyzed.” This pact created a “Truth Commission,” whose members were supposed to be elected by the signatory countries, and that was charged with “investigating” the attack.
Those of us who had been following the investigation closely though never understood the reasons for this agreement and suspected there was something “murky” behind its signing. The fact that this government, after years of openly accusing Iran, chose to suddenly believe in the “good will” of the regime to investigate the attack was at least “suspicious,” especially if one considers that at the time of signing the memorandum, several of the Iranian officials accused by the argentine justice of having planned the attack were still holding powerful positions in Iran.
After Nisman’s mysterious death, Federal Prosecutor Gerardo Pollicita decided to go on with his complaint. But the judge assigned to the case, Daniel Rafecas, dismissed the complaint in a very expedited (and inexplicable) way. In his ruling, Rafecas said among other things, that the crime of concealment could have never materialized because the memorandum never came into force. But the truth is that the government did everything possible to have the pact come into force. It did not become operational because Iran never ratified it, and also because it was eventually declared unconstitutional by an Argentine Federal Court. If it were indeed demonstrated that by signing this agreement the government actually intended to help the Iranians evade justice, then it would be completely irrelevant whether the memorandum ever came into force.
This is what prosecutor Pollicita alleged when he appealed Rafecas’ decision. He further stated that given the seriousness of the complaint it would be essential to open an investigation. Not doing so would be to give up the search for truth. This conclusion was also confirmed by Federal Court Prosecutor German Moldes, who decided to elevate Pollicita’s appeal to a Federal Court.
But the Federal Court that was assigned to decide the appeal quickly dismissed it (by two votes in favor and one against). The main argument used by the two judges who voted in favor was that there was insufficient evidence to support the complaint.
Moldes subsequently appealed this decision before the Court of Cassation. This is the last resort that the Argentine criminal system admits before resorting to the Supreme Court. Moldes’ alleged on his appeal that a criminal complaint only needs to prove the “plausibility” of what is alleged and that therefore, not opening an investigation in this case would be mistaken.
Aside from the complicated developments in the two judicial cases, it is important to note that the government and its supporters have engaged in a smear campaign against the deceased prosecutor that is quite disturbing. They revealed details of his personal life and accused him, among other things, of being a “homosexual,” a “womanizer” and a “slacker.” They said that he lived beyond his means and inappropriately spent money that belonged to the Fiscal Unit he was running. But the truth is that this person is no longer with us and is therefore unable to defend himself. And ultimately, none of the things that are being said about him have anything to do with the credibility of his complaint.
A few weeks ago, the Brazilian magazine “Veja” published a report in which statements by former officials of the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez—who are now living in the United States—were revealed. According to these officials, the Iranian regime and the Argentine government have had a close relationship since 2007—a relationship that was brokered by Chavez. In their statements, these officials argued that Iran sent large sums of money to Argentina on several occasions, not only with the goal of having Argentina turn a blind eye on the AMIA case but also to obtain the transfer of nuclear know-how from Argentina.
These very serious statements are somewhat compatible with Nisman’s allegations and make his accusations even more plausible. Therefore, I agree with those who believe that, given the seriousness of the allegations made, not to open a thorough investigation would be to give up the pursuit of truth, apart for being a serious setback for the institutional quality of Argentina.