BUENOS AIRES – The former lead investigator into the death of Alberto Nisman said Thursday she believed that the Argentine federal prosecutor had been forced to commit suicide, justifying that hypothesis on the basis of phone conversations involving ex-intelligence agents and military officials.
Viviana Fein told La Red radio that she was leaning most heavily to that cause of death, although she said she could not be certain because she did not see the case to the end.
“I think Nisman was obligated (to kill himself); it’s perhaps highly likely that they forced him or induced him,” said Fein, who headed up the investigation for more than a year before the case was moved to federal jurisdiction in March.
Fein’s theory is based on telephone calls from Jan. 18, 2015, the day on which Nisman, who was leading an investigation into a 1994 bombing that killed 85 people at a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, was found dead.
Those calls indicate “there was a group of people who may have been waiting for something,” she said, mentioning, among others, former army chief Cesar Milani, ex-Justice Ministry officials and erstwhile intelligence agents.
The former prosecutor, who retired shortly after the case was taken out of her hands, said it was “worrying” that “persons of that caliber, on the day of his death, were talking non-stop from the early morning until Nisman’s death became public.”
But Nisman’s ex-wife, Judge Sandra Arroyo Salgado, criticized Fein’s statement to the media, telling Mitre radio that all the scientific evidence points to the prosecutor having been the victim of a homicide.
She said Fein had never been objective and had steered the case toward the suicide hypothesis.
Nisman was found dead four days after bringing charges against then-President Cristina Fernandez of trying to conceal Iranian involvement in the 1994 attack on the AMIA Jewish organization.
The government wanted to eliminate any obstacle to forging closer trade and economic ties with Tehran, the prosecutor said.
After his death, the courts dismissed Nisman’s charges against Fernandez as baseless.
Many in the Argentine Jewish community believe the AMIA bombing was ordered by Iran and carried out by Tehran’s Hezbollah allies, but both the Iranian government and the Lebanese militia group deny any involvement.
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.