BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — A former Argentine spymaster accused the government of former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of being responsible for the death of AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman, spurring a venue change to a court that hears murder cases.
Following more than 15 hours of testimony on Tuesday from Antonio “Jaime” Stiuso, the former operations chief of the Intelligence Secretariat, or SI, the country’s spy agency, Judge Fabiana Palmaghini said the case would be investigated by a federal court.
Stiuso’s testimony, some of which leaked during the day, was not released because Palmaghini placed a gag order on the investigation. But the Argentine media reported that Stiuso said Nisman’s death “was intimately linked with the complaint that he made” accusing the Kirchner government of deciding to “not incriminate” former senior officials of Iran and trying to “erase” their roles in planning the bombing.
Stiuso had assisted Nisman in the investigation into the 1994 attack on the Buenos Aires Jewish center, which left 85 dead and hundreds wounded.
Nisman was found shot and killed in the bathroom of his apartment on Jan. 18, 2015. No official cause of death has been presented.
Ten hours after hearing Stiuso’s testimony, Palmaghini declared herself “unfit” to continue with the case and changed the venue. She overturned her own Feb. 12 ruling saying there was no evidence indicating Nisman had been murdered, the Buenos Aires Herald reported.
The judge also lodged a complaint against prosecutor Viviana Fein for allegedly failing to register information, including some data provided by Stiuso in his first testimony in the Nisman investigation made in February 2015.
The change of jurisdiction was requested less than a week ago by Ricardo Sáenz, the attorney general for Argentina’s Criminal Appeals Court, who also asserted that Nisman was murdered. In a letter to the judges, Saenz wrote that a federal magistrate “has the broadest jurisdiction to clarify which of all the assumptions” into Nisman’s death are correct.
Nisman’s body was found hours before he was to present evidence to Argentine lawmakers that Kirchner covered up Iran’s role in the AMIA attack. According to Stiuso, Nisman was murdered for not stopping the investigation, as Kirchner had requested.
“She decided to negotiate the pact with Iran and ordered the SI to stop providing evidence or information to the AMIA case,” Stiuso reportedly said Tuesday during his testimony.
According to Palmaghini, some evidence at Nisman’s apartment could have been tampered with before Fein’s arrival at the scene, since at least 20 people , including former security secretary Sergio Berni, entered the apartment the night that Nisman’s body was discovered.
Also Tuesday, addressing the first session of the national Parliament, Argentine President Mauricio Macri said: “Let’s not forget that little more than a year ago, prosecutor Alberto Nisman turned up dead in circumstances that remain uncertain but that are slowly starting to clear up.”
Macri did not explicitly mention the change in venue of the case, or that the focus of the investigation has turned more to the homicide theory rather than suicide or uncertainty, as previously argued by Fein.