BUENOS AIRES – The embattled lead investigator into the death of Alberto Nisman, a prosecutor whose death by gunshot wound last month rocked Argentina, on Wednesday canceled her plans to take a two-week vacation, judicial officials told Efe.
Viviana Fein has come under fire for the alleged slow pace of the investigation and also for contradictory statements about a draft document found in the trash at Nisman’s apartment after his Jan. 18 death.
Clarin, Argentina’s largest-circulation daily, reported Sunday that the draft, which had many portions crossed out, requested the arrest of the president in connection with Nisman’s probe of a 1994 car-bomb attack that left 85 dead at the offices of the Jewish organization AMIA in Buenos Aires.
Nisman had announced a few days before his death that he planned to seek indictments against Fernandez and other officials for trying to conceal the involvement of Iran in the attack.
Fein, who had initially denied the existence of the draft, on Tuesday confirmed that Nisman had prepared the document, saying she had made an “involuntary mistake.”
But the opposition says the hand of Attorney General Alejandra Gils Carbo, whom they accuse of being overly close to the president and lacking impartiality, was behind the “mistake.”
Meanwhile, a judge investigating separate cover-up charges related to the car-bomb attack, Ariel Lijo, denied Clarin’s account within hours of its publication and said the document included “no substantial motion” from Nisman regarding the prospective defendants.
Criticism of Fein from both the Fernandez administration and the opposition grew louder still on Tuesday when Fein announced plans to take a two-week vacation and leave the investigation into Nisman’s death in the hands of two of her colleagues.
Nisman, 51, was found fatally shot hours before he was supposed to brief Argentina’s Congress about his accusations against Fernandez, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and five other people.
The prosecutor died of a single shot to the temple, fired at point-blank range from a .22-caliber pistol that was found under his body in the bathroom of his apartment.
Investigators have designated the case as a “suspicious death.”
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 in a statement.
The government wanted to eliminate any obstacle to forging closer trade and economic ties with Tehran, the prosecutor said.
Meanwhile, Judge Daniel Rafecas was assigned Wednesday to hear Nisman’s complaint against Fernandez and Timerman; earlier this week both he and Judge Lijo had declined to handle the allegations filed against the Argentine president and the foreign minister.
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 some have pointed out that the accusation relies heavily on information provided by the CIA and Israel’s Mossad spy agency, both with an interest in blackening the reputation of Tehran.
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.
The attack against the AMIA building was the second terrorist strike against Jewish targets in Argentina. In March 1992, a car bomb was detonated in front of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29 people and wounding more than 100 others.