Prosecutor’s mysterious death leads to rumors of presidential conspiracy

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    And I'm joined by Simon Romero. He has been covering the story for The New York Times in Buenos Aires.

    So this 1994 bombing has been contentious in Argentina for some time, right? Fill us in a little bit on what's known and the prevailing theories about who did it.

  • SIMON ROMERO, The New York Times:

    It certainty has, Jeffrey.

    It's been a huge story in Argentina for more than two decades now. This Jewish center was attacked and blown up in 1994; 85 people were killed. More than 200 people were injured. There were various theories which flourished almost immediately as to who was responsible.

    And the theory that Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor, was most focused on, the lead he was most focused on was the Iranian connection, and he had formerly accused Hezbollah, a cell of Hezbollah here in South America, of carrying out of the attack and of Iranians officials of orchestrating and financing it.

    But there were also competing theories here in Argentina that continue to have strength and persist to should day that there may have been a Syrian connection or there may have been local corrupt police officials involved in the bombing. And whatever the case, there were botched investigations to begin with.

    There was a judge back in the '90s who actually bribed one of the key witnesses $400,000 in cash to implicate others in the attack falsely, and all of those people were acquitted. And that was the case that Alberto Nisman inherited back in 1994, when he began investigating the AMIA bombing.


    Well, so the explosive charges against the president, she, of course, has denied them. What do we know about how much evidence he really has?


    Well, the evidence as laid out in his criminal complaint — this is a document that is 289 pages long — is mostly based on interprets of telephone calls and text messages that were, in all likelihood, obtained by Argentina's main intelligence agency.

    So he worked very closely with agents from that service, and he got tons and tons of information, all of these calls he compiled of close collaborators and supporters of the president here in Argentina. And he weaved together this theory, this argument in his complaint that there was a secret deal that was — that they attempted to reach with the Iranians to shield Iranian officials implicated in the attack from responsibility for the bombing, in exchange for certain economic benefits that Argentina would obtain.

    Of course, these — this claim by Mr. Nisman in and his complaint has been roundly rejected here in Argentina with strong evidence from parties like Interpol, which has come forward to say that Argentine officials never went to Interpol to try to lift the arrest warrants on these Iranian officials.

    So it's a very, very contentious matter. A couple of judges actually refused to even take the case. And finally today, a judge here in Argentina was forced to do so.


    And real briefly, the threat to the president and her government?


    President Kirchner and her top officials, her top aides have gone on the offensive day in, day out, since Mr. Nisman turned up dead at his apartment.

    They have been attacking their critics in the media here, and they have also announced an overhaul of the country's main intelligence agency. The president has implied that rogue agents from that agency were somehow involved in the events around Mr. Nisman's death.

    So, clearly, the government here does feel vulnerable. It's an extremely sensitive issue. This is an unsolved attack which has sort of been viewed as a stain on Argentina's institutions, a stain on Argentine democracy since it took place. So it's certainly making the government feel quite vulnerable.


    All right, Simon Romero of The New York Times, thank you so much.


    Thank you, Jeffrey.

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