Argentine prosecutor was 'assassinated': family probe

Argentine prosecutor Nisman was 'assassinated': family
Argentine prosecutor Nisman was 'assassinated': family

Buenos Aires (AFP) - The Argentine prosecutor who died mysteriously while pursuing a case against President Cristina Kirchner was assassinated, his ex-wife said Thursday, announcing the results of an unofficial probe commissioned by the family.

Alberto Nisman, who accused Kirchner of shielding Iranian officials from prosecution over the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center, "was killed," said Sandra Arroyo Salgado, a federal judge who is his ex-wife and mother of his two daughters.

Nisman was found dead in his bathroom of a gunshot wound to the head on January 18, on the eve of congressional hearings where he was due to present his accusations against Kirchner.

After his death was initially labelled a suicide, his family commissioned its own independent forensic investigation.

"Nisman didn't suffer an accident, he didn't commit suicide, he was killed. His death is an assassination of unknown proportions," Arroyo Salgado told a press conference.

Reading the conclusions of a nearly 100-page report produced by forensics experts hired by the family, she said: "We can only conclude that Nisman was the victim of a homicide, beyond a doubt."

She said the experts had concluded that Nisman's body was moved, which contradicts the version of events presented by the prosecutor leading the official inquiry, Vivian Fein.

Fein's team is investigating Nisman's death as "suspicious" in an ongoing inquiry.

She has said the prosecutor's body was found lying on the bathroom floor blocking the door and that no one entered until a judge and forensic experts arrived.

"Unfortunately, the (official) autopsy drifted into partial, hasty and incorrect conclusions," said Arroyo Salgado, insisting the family's own probe had sought the "objective, scientifically verifiable truth."

- Cover-up case revived -

The accusations are the latest bombshell in a case that has deeply shaken the South American country.

They came after prosecutors on Wednesday sought to relaunch Nisman's case against Kirchner by appealing a judge's decision to dismiss it.

"A criminal allegation of such unusual gravity and institutional impact as the one presented by Mr. Nisman demands every possible effort be made to reach the real truth of what happened," said lead prosecutor Gerardo Pollicita, who took over the file after Nisman's death.

The long-unsolved bombing at the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association killed 85 people and wounded 300.

Nisman accused Iran of ordering the attack via Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Four days before his death on January 18, he filed a report accusing Kirchner, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and other figures close to the government of protecting high-ranking Iranian officials, including former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, in exchange for oil and other trade benefits.

He was scheduled to detail the allegations in Congress when he was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment, a .22-caliber revolver at his side.

Since Nisman's death suspicion has fallen on Kirchner's government of orchestrating his murder.

The president has suggested the prosecutor was manipulated by disgruntled former intelligence agents who killed him to smear her.

Kirchner has clashed with Argentina's intelligence establishment, sacking the top officials at the Intelligence Secretariat (SI) and introducing a bill to disband it that passed the legislature last week.