Natalio Alberto Nisman (5 December 1963 – 18 January 2015) was an Argentine lawyer who worked as a federal prosecutor, noted for being the chief investigator of the 1994 car bombing of the Jewish center in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people, the worst terrorist attack in Argentina's history. On 18 January 2015, Nisman was found dead at his home in Buenos Aires, one day before he was scheduled to report on his findings, with supposedly incriminating evidence against high-ranking officials of the then-current Argentinian government including former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
Nisman during an Infobae interview, November 2013
Natalio Alberto Nisman
5 December 1963
Buenos Aires, Argentina
|Died||18 January 2015 (aged 51)|
Buenos Aires, Argentina
|Cause of death||Murder by shooting (Confirmed as a homicide on 1 June 2018)|
|Resting place||La Tablada's Jewish cemetery|
|Known for||Prosecutor of the AMIA bombing case|
Nisman's death was initially ruled a suicide by a group of forensic experts appointed by Argentina's Supreme Court in 2015. However, in 2018, Nisman's death was determined to have been a homicide by a forensic group of the Gendarmerie. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was accused of being the prime suspect in Nisman's homicide, and is currently being prosecuted on conspiracy to commit murder charges by a federal judge.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Death
- 3 Controversies about his life
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Early life and careerEdit
Alberto Nisman was born to a middle-class Jewish family in Buenos Aires. He started his career as a prosecutor in Morón, Buenos Aires. He was married to judge Sandra Arroyo Salgado, with whom he had two daughters. Nisman was a non-observant Jew.
AMIA Special ProsecutorEdit
Nisman was appointed Special Prosecutor in charge of the AMIA bombing investigation on 13 September 2004. The probe into the 1994 terrorist attack against the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) had been marked by judicial misconduct, and had reached an impasse. On October 25, 2006, Nisman formally accused the government of Iran of directing the AMIA bombing, and the Hezbollah militia of carrying it out. According to the prosecution, Argentina had been targeted by Iran after Buenos Aires' decision to suspend a nuclear technology transfer contract to Tehran. In November 2007, following the accusation, Interpol published the names of six individuals officially accused for their role in the terrorist attack. They were entered in the Interpol red notice list: Imad Fayez Moughnieh, Ali Fallahijan, Mohsen Rabbani, Ahmad Reza Asghari, Ahmad Vahidi and Mohsen Rezaee.
Nisman asked in 2008 for the detention of the former President Carlos Menem and Judge Juan José Galeano, who first presided over the AMIA case until his removal in 2004. WikiLeaks revealed that US diplomats considered that Nisman may have done this so as to be in good standing with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. He was considered a possible candidate for General Prosecutor of the Nation, after the resignation of Esteban Righi during the Boudougate scandal in 2012.
Santiago O'Donnell, a journalist and writer who published the books Argenleaks and Politileaks, both of which analyse the Wikileaks cable leak concerning Argentina's foreign and domestic policies, stated that during his investigation, he found clear and strong ties and "friendship" between Nisman, the CIA and the Embassy of Argentina in Washington, D.C.. According to O'Donnell, the cables revealed Nisman had received recommendation from the US embassy to not investigate the Syrian clues in the AMIA bombing and the local connection of the terrorist attack, and that he was instead to assume certain guilt of Iranian suspects, although no trial had been conducted.
Nisman rejected the 2013 memorandum of understanding signed with Iran to investigate the case. Two years later, he accused President Cristina Kirchner, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman and other politicians of covering up Iranian suspects in the case. The report was largely based on wire tap reports of close allies of Kirchner alleged to be "clearly acting on orders from her" and others, including Mohsen Rabbani, a former cultural attaché at Iran's embassy in Buenos Aires.
The accusation was also based on his stated belief that the administration had petitioned Interpol to lift Red Notices against numerous Iranian officials during said negotiations. The Secretary-General of Interpol at the time, Ronald Noble, noted on 15 January 2015 that no such requests had been made; “on each occasion that you and I spoke about the Interpol red notices issued in connection to the AMIA case, you stated that Interpol should keep the red notices effective,” Noble wrote in an email addressed to Timerman. On the same day of Nisman's death, a recent interview with Noble was published by the newspaper Página/12; when asked about Nisman's belief and affirmation of the lifting of the Red Notices, Noble declared: "Prosecutor Nisman's assertion is false."
Federal Judge Daniel Rafecas dismissed the complaint, resubmitted to the courts by Federal Prosecutor Gerardo Pollicita, on 26 February. "The judge believes the minimum conditions to launch a criminal investigation have not been met, based on what the prosecutor presented," the Judicial Information Centre (CIJ) said in a statement. Rafecas noted in his ruling that "none of the two hypotheses of a crime put forward by prosecutor Pollicita in his writ stand up to the minimum level of scrutiny." Pollicita did not succeed Nisman as chief AMIA prosecutor; this office was headed as of 13 February by Sabrina Namer, Patricio Sabadini, Roberto Salum, and the prosecution task force coordinator, Juan Murray.
Nisman was found dead at his home in Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires, on 18 January 2015 with a Bersa Thunder 22 handgun nearby just hours before he was due to explain his allegations to Congress, and six days after publishing the 288 page report. According to the autopsy, Nisman died the previous afternoon and had an entry bullet wound on the right temple with no exit wound. His body was found inside the bathroom and blocking the door, and there were no signs of forced entry or robbery in the apartment. Nonetheless, a locksmith who arrived at Nisman's apartment was quoted as stating that he found a hidden entrance to the apartment open upon his arrival. 
The death of Nisman is under investigation by Federal Judge Emma Palmaghini and Special Prosecutor Viviana Fein. It is known that the death was a murder, as confirmed on 1 June 2018. Several items from the crime scene have been considered so far, attempting to clarify the circumstances of the event.
Nisman was found next to a Bersa gun, .22 caliber. It has been confirmed that it was the killing weapon, that there was a single shot, and that it was fired point blank to his head. Nisman had two registered guns, but this gun did not belong to him; it belonged to his assistant Diego Lagomarsino, who lent it to him. Of the other two guns, one was transferred in 2009, and the other has not been found. The paraffin test did not reveal any gunshot residue on Nisman's hands, suggesting that he may not have fired the gun himself. The results of such a test, however, may not be conclusive, as the gun involved is of small caliber and may leave no trace. His body did not have signs of physical attacks, and Fein commented that there were no items suggesting the presence of other people in the crime scene. Fein announced on 9 February, however, that DNA from a second person was found on a coffee cup in the kitchen sink.
It is still unknown whether Lagomarsino was the last person to see Nisman alive, and Fein is investigating the security tapes to clarify that point. Nisman's last phone calls are also under investigation. His bodyguards had not been present since the previous Friday, and returned that Sunday at noon. Although they received no reply from Nisman, who was dead, they did not report the lack of communication immediately or call 911, and refused the help of medics from the SAME (which deals with medical emergencies).
Nisman had already submitted his complaint and wiretap transcripts to Judge Ariel Lijo on 14 January. It was reported, both in the media and in comments to relatives, that he felt confident about his performance. Nisman had also written a grocery list for the following day, which was also found at the house. One of his last WhatsApp messages, for his relatives and friends, said "Estoy mejor que nunca y más temprano que tarde la verdad triunfa" (Spanish for "I'm better than ever and sooner than later the truth prevails"). Some who knew Nisman well, including Congresswoman Cornelia Schmidt-Liermann, said that he had been living under constant threats on his life since he began his investigation 10 years earlier.
Fein announced on 3 February 2015 that Nisman had drafted warrants for the arrest of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Héctor Timerman, Argentina's Foreign Minister, before his death. The 26 page document was found in the garbage in Nisman's apartment.
Senior Secretariat of Intelligence officer Antonio "Jaime" Stiuso, who conducted many of the wiretaps ordered by Nisman, had been dismissed in a December 2014 agency shakeup and had persuaded Nisman to dismiss his 10-man security detail days before his death. Stiuso presented himself on 18 February for questioning by Special Prosecutor Fein after initially evading the subpoenas. Facing unrelated charges of smuggling, he reportedly fled the country for neighboring Uruguay a week later in a black pickup registered to one of the companies allegedly involved in the smuggling operation.
In June 2015 a video was released of the crime scene investigation showing police allegedly tampering with evidence by neglecting certain precautionary measures.
The incident was first ruled as a suicide by a group of forensic experts appointed by Argentina's Supreme Court in 2015 (during Fernández de Kirchner's government), and then as a homicide by a forensic group of Gendarmerie in 2018, under Macri's government. That same year Fernández de Kirchner was accused as the prime suspect of Nisman's alleged homicide and is currently being prosecuted on conspiracy-to-commit-murder charges by a federal judge.
In early March 2015, a private investigation that was initiated by Nisman's family concluded that Nisman's death was not suicide but was an act of homicide. The report, which was performed by experts of Judge Arroyo Salgado, included photos of Nisman's body and was about 100 pages in length.
Public protests took place following his death, accusing the Argentine government of corruption. Suspicions were raised by the rapidity with which the incident was officially declared a suicide. President Kirchner reversed her initial statement and declared on 22 January 2015 that she believed that it was not a case of suicide.
Nisman's death caused an international stir and captivated media attention throughout the world. A letter was delivered by historian Richard Gott and 29 other British journalists, artists, and intellectuals to the Argentine Embassy in London rejecting the "political use" of either the AMIA bombing or Nisman's death.
In the week following Nisman's death President Kirchner declared her determination to dissolve the Argentine Secretariat of Intelligence in favor of a Federal Intelligence Agency, an agency with new functions and closely controlled by the General Prosecutor's office.
Controversies about his lifeEdit
Alleged political contacts with the CIA, FBI and US EmbassyEdit
Santiago O'Donnell, an Argentine journalist and writer who published the books Argenleaks and Politileaks, both of which analyse the Wikileaks cable leak concerning Argentina's foreign and domestic policies, stated that during his investigation, he found clear and strong ties and "friendship" between Nisman, the CIA and the Embassy of Argentina in Washington, D.C.. According to O'Donnell, the cables revealed Nisman had received recommendation from the US embassy to not investigate the Syrian clues in the AMIA bombing and the local connection of the terrorist attack, and that he was instead to assume certain guilt of Iranian suspects, although no trial had been conducted.
Argentine journalist Facundo Pastor accused Nisman claiming of having longstanding working relationship several USA security agencies, including the FBI. Pastor also states that in the light of his revelations it seems highly plausible that Nisman, instead of have been murdered by Argentina officials as has been widely assumed by the political opponents of Kirchner, committed suicide after all. His main argument for that position consists of the assumption that Nisman might have been purposely abandoned by the FBI and abstained from that agency's supposedly conclusive evidence against Kirchner, in the days leading up to his announcement of prosecuting Kirchner and Timerman. Pastor claims that Nisman might have been abandoned by his USA security contacts because the Obama administration shifted its political priorities from a severe anti-Iran policy towards a negotiated nuclear deal and more relaxed diplomatic ties with Iran as a consequence.
Alleged money laundering and undeclared earningsEdit
Following the emerging data in the judicial inquiry into the death of Nisman, the federal prosecutor Juan Zoni asked the judge of the same jurisdiction Rodolfo Canicoba Corral to summon a statement from some relatives or close friends of Nisman people. The order included the mother, Sara Garfunkel, her sister Sandra, former ITF AMIA Diego Lagomarsino, and the businessman Alejandro Picón. The prosecutor said the four defendants have been figureheads of Nisman and that Nisman's real estate was not justified according to the income he received while in office. According to prosecutor Zoni, among those assets that were appointed to third parties are:
- The Audi Q3 car used by Nisman, which was in the name of Palermopack, the company owned by Alejandro Picón.
- The undeclared account in Merrill Lynch bank (New York), with an amount of more than U$S 670,000 attributed to the name of Diego Lagomarsino (Nisman's employee), Sandra Nisman (his sister) and Sara Garfunkel (Nisman's mother).
- A trust for two departments with two parking garages, which are named after Sara Garfunkel; and two lots of sea farms (chacras) in Punta del Este which are also named after Sara Garfunkel.
Judge Canicoba Corral made the request and set dates for the declarations, but before they were carried out, the Federal Chamber ordered - at the request of Sara Garfunkel - that Canicoba Corral cease to attend the case and that Judge Claudio Bonadío intervene. The reason for the withdrawal was an alleged partiality of the Judge Canicoba Corral, who had previously criticized Nisman and had made remarks in the media assuming Nisman's money laundering to be almost certain.
Diego Lagomarsino, the man who declared that he had given Alberto Nisman the gun from which the mortal shot came out, stated that every month he gave his boss 50 percent of his salary, against his will. He explained to the Justice that he gave the money to Nisman in his hand, in the department of Le Parc of the latter, and without witnesses. Lagomarsino also confirmed that he was co-owning with Nisman a bank account at the Merrill Lynch Bank of New York and that he made money transfers to pay the expenses of a field in Uruguay. The data on Nisman's estate were provided two months after the death, in a letter signed by Lagomarsino and his lawyers and presented to the prosecutor Viviana Fein.
- "Sepultan restos de Nisman en cementerio judío tras emotivo cortejo fúnebre" (in Spanish). Santiago de Chile: Emol.com. 29 January 2015. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
- "Jewish centre bombing: Argentine prosecutor Nisman found dead". BBC News. 19 January 2015.
- "An explosion within an explosion", The Economist, UK, Jan. 19, 2015
- "Muerte de Nisman: la media hora que es un agujero negro en la causa" [Nisman's death: the half-hour which is a black hole in the case]. Infojus Noticias (in Spanish). Ifnojus Noticias. 11 February 2015. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
El médico de Swiss Medical...no tenía dudas de que se trataba de una muerte violenta...
- "Los enigmas del caso Nisman" [The mysteries of the Nisman case]. La Nacion (in Spanish). La Nacion. 9 March 2015. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
23 hs - Llega la ambulancia de Swiss Medical y constantan la muerte.
- "Argentine ex-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner charged with treason". Washington Post.
- "Cristina Kirchner faces investigation over alleged cover-up of bombing". El Pais.
- "Argentinian lawyer Alberto Nisman was murdered, police report finds". The Guardian.
- ARGENTINIAN PROSECUTOR NISMAN WAS MURDERED, COURT CONFIRMS, Jerusalem Post, June 2, 2018
- Argentina prosecutor Alberto Nisman was killed, judge rules, BBC, December 27, 2017
- Joshua Partlow and Irene Caselli, After 17 years on Argentine bomb case, prosecutor was sure ‘truth will triumph’, Washington Post, February 1, 2015
- "Quién era el fiscal Natalio Alberto Nisman" [Who was the prosecutor Natalio Alberto Nisman] (in Spanish). La Nación. January 19, 2015. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
- David Horovitz, Who will obtain justice for Alberto Nisman?, Times of Israel, 19 January 2015
- "¿Quién era y cómo pensaba el fiscal Alberto Nisman?". Perfil. 19 January 2015. Archived from the original on 2015-01-21. Retrieved 2015-02-20.
- "Cronología del caso AMIA a 20 años del atentado". BBC News. 18 July 2014.
- Julian Obligio y Diego Naveira (2014). "Chapter 9: Rewriting History in Argentina". Iran's Strategic Penetration of Latin America. Lanham, Maryland, Lexington Books. p. 81/92. ISBN 9780739182666.
- "Argentina, Iran reach deal on 1994 bombing inquiry". YNet. 28 January 2013.
- "Iran, Hezbollah charged in 1994 Argentine bombing". Daily Jang. October 25, 2006. Archived from the original on September 1, 2007. Retrieved October 25, 2006.
- "Iran charged over Argentina bomb". BBC News. October 25, 2006. Archived from the original on 7 November 2006. Retrieved October 25, 2006.
- Acusan a Irán por el ataque a la AMIA, La Nación, October 26, 2006
- "INTERPOL Executive Committee takes decision on AMIA Red Notice dispute". Archived from the original on 2012-12-12. Retrieved 2015-01-19.
- Santiago O`Donnell: “"Nisman used to bring forward his rulings to the US Embassy and he took his drafts so it could correct them."” Archived 2015-02-19 at Archive.today Radio Nacional Calafate (in Spanish)
- "Nisman told me that Stiusso, who is the link to the CIA and the Mossad, gives him all the information" Radio Nacional Argentina (in Spanish)
- The prosecutor, the embassy and the secret services/El fiscal, la embajada y los servicios 2015-01-20, Pagina/12 (in Spanish)
- Nisman in Wikileaks/Nisman en Wikileaks 2015-01-15, Pagina/12 (in Spanish)
- The Wikileaks cables on the AMIA case and the crack in the media - By Rodrigo Lloret 01/28/2015, Perfil (in Spanish)
- AMIA case: "Nisman went to the US embassy and they told him he had to accuse Iran" 01.15.2015, Télam (in Spanish)
- "AMIA prosecutor accuses CFK, Timerman of 'covering up' Iran's involvement in bombing". Buenos Aires Herald. 14 January 2015.
- "Argentina's President Kirchner Named in Criminal Complaint". Wall Street Journal. 2015-01-15. Archived from the original on 2015-02-20. Retrieved 2015-02-20.
- "Five key days: from accusations to tragedy". Buenos Aires Herald. 20 January 2015.
- Former Secretary General of Interpol Ronald Noble talks about the complaint: "What Nisman says is false" 01-18-2015, Página/12 (in Spanish)
- "Judge Rafecas dismisses AMIA cover-up charge against President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner". Buenos Aires Herald. 26 February 2015.
- "Four prosecutors to probe '94 bombing". Buenos Aires Herald. 14 February 2015.
- "Mystery clouds death of Argentine prosecutor set to testify", Washington Post, Jan. 20, 2015
- "Argentine Prosecutor Is Found Dead After Accusing President". Bloomberg News. 19 January 2015.
- "Argentina Nisman death: Hundreds of thousands rally". BBC News. 2015-02-19. Retrieved 2015-02-19.
- Nisman, Alberto (2015-01-13). "Formula Denuncia, Ministerio Público de la Nación (Spanish) - Formal Allegation of complicity of President Kirchner and Foreign Minister Héctor Marcos Timerman" (PDF). Ministerio Público de la Nación. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-02-20. Retrieved 2015-02-20.
- "Officials: Argentine prosecutor died in locked apartment". Times of Israel. 20 January 2015.
- Alexander, Harriet (21 January 2015). "Alberto Nisman's service door was 'open' says locksmith, as secret third entrance found". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2015-07-11.
- "La Cámara Federal confirmó que Alberto Nisman fue asesinado por su denuncia contra Cristina Kirchner". Infobae (in Spanish). Retrieved 2018-06-03.
- "Certezas vs. Incógnitas" [Certainties vs. unknown things] (in Spanish). La Nación. January 25, 2015. Archived from the original on 2015-02-22. Retrieved January 27, 2015.
- "Judge confirms DNA profile different to Nisman's found". Buenos Aires Herald. 10 February 2015.
- "Argentine prosecutor who accused Cristina Kirchner over 1994 bombings found dead", The Telegraph, UK, Jan. 19, 2015
- Simon Romero, "Draft of arrest warrant for Argentine president found at dead prosecutor’s home" NY Times via National Post. February 3, 2015.
- "Dead prosecutor was a 'soldier' of ex-Argentine spy boss". Reuters. 6 February 2015.
- "Argentinian ex-spy accused of tax fraud as allegations swirl in Fernández scandal". The Guardian. 26 February 2015.
- Calatrava, Almudena (Jun 2, 2015). "Police allegedly tampered with crime scene in death of Argentine prosecutor who accused president of corruption". Business Insider.
- "Nisman "no se suicidó, lo mataron", según peritos de su familia". El Impulso. 5 March 2015. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
- Sandra Arroyo Salgado resigned from the consultation in the case investigating the death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman 12-21-2018, Infobae (in Spanish)
- Adam Chandler, 'The Extremely Suspicious Death of Victim #86,' The Atlantic, 22 January 2015.
- "Argentine leader convinced Nisman death was no suicide", BBC news, 22 January 2015
- Filer, Tanya; Fredheim, Rolf (2016). "Sparking debate? Political deaths and Twitter discourses in Argentina and Russia". Information, Communication & Society. 19 (11): 1539–1555. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2016.1140805.
- "Why the death of an Argentine prosecutor is captivating the world", The Washington Post, 21 January 2015.
- "British intellectuals reject political use of AMIA tragedy". Buenos Aires Herald. 20 February 2015.
- "Argentine President Kirchner to disband intelligence agency". BBC News. 27 January 2015.
- Calero, Cesar G. (27 January 2015). "Cristina Fernández disuelve la Secretaría de Inteligencia tras el 'caso Nisman'". El Mundo (in Spanish). Retrieved 27 January 2015.
- Alberto Nisman: Was prosecutor killed while investigating 1994 bombing of Jewish centre in Buenos Aires moonlighting for the FBI? By David Usborne 2015-10-22, The Independent
- ‘A Crime Against Humanity:’ Three Years Later, Relatives and Friends Reflect on AMIA Prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s Murder
- Argentine Prosecutor Mysteriously Dies as CIA Steps up Efforts to Topple President Kirchner
- «Sospechas de lavado de dinero: el empresario que le prestó el Audi a Nisman, cada vez más comprometido», por Delfino, Emilia (2015) 2015-06-28 Perfil (Buenos Aires) (in Spanish)
- «Nisman y sus insólitas relaciones financieras», por Raúl Kollmann (2015) 2015-07-27 Página/12 (Buenos Aires) (in Spanish)
- Citan a indagatoria a madre de Nisman y a Lagomarsino por lavado de dinero 2015-08-2, El Cronista (in Spanish)
- Nisman: apartaron a Canicoba de la causa por lavado de dinero 2015-11-3, El Destape (Buenos Aires) (in Spanish)
- Bonadio quedó a cargo de la investigación por el supuesto lavado de dinero contra familiares de Nisman 2015-12-27, El Cronista (in Spanish)
- Lagomarsino testified before Justice that he regularly gave half of his salary to Nisman, by Nicolas Pizzi 2015-03-19, Clarín (in Spanish)
- Nisman's charges against the President and Foreign Minister Página/12 (PDF) (in Spanish)
- Archive: Página/12 - 13 January 2015, Nisman's charges against the President and Foreign Minister WebCite query result (in Spanish)
- Death of a Prosecutor The New Yorker
- Nisman's denunciation YouTube