Death of a Prosecutor
Alberto Nisman's curious suicide and the spotlight it shines on Iran.
Alberto Nisman, the Argentinean prosecutor who indicted top Iranian regime officials for the July 1994 AMIA Jewish Center bombing in Buenos Aires, was found dead by gunshot in his apartment on Sunday night, in what initially was called a suicide.
Nisman was scheduled to address members of parliament the next day to reveal new information about alleged efforts by Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her foreign minister, Hector Timerman, to cover up the responsibility of the Iranian regime in the AMIA bombing that killed 86 people some twenty-one years ago.
Just days before his murder, Nisman publicly accused the President and her foreign minister of taking “the criminal decision to fabricate Iran’s innocence to save Argentina’s commercial, political and geopolitical interests.”
Police found arrayed on a desk in his apartment documents relating to his allegations, but no suicide note.
Nisman issued his initial 801 page indictment in the AMIA case in on October 25, 2006. He asked Interpol to issue international arrest warrants against eight current and former Iranian government officials, including then president Hashemi-Rafsanjani, his foreign minister, the intelligence minister, and the head of the Revolutionary Guards Corps.
He also accused Lebanese Hezbollah leader Imad Mugniyeh, who worked in tandem with the IRGC, of handling the logistics of the truck bomb plot.
Mugniyeh was assassinated in Damascus in February 2008, apparently by Israeli operatives. Mugniyeh has a long pedigree of killing Americans and killing Jews, which I have written about extensively.
Early this past Sunday, Israeli helicopters reportedly attacked a Hezbollah outpost in Syria, killing four Hezbollah operatives – including Mugniyeh’s son and terrorist-operative heir, Jihad.
A senior Iranian official told reporters that Israel would be hit at “the right time and right place” in retaliation for the strike.
That same evening, on the other side of the world, the Argentinean prosecutor instrumental in revealing Mugniyeh, Senior’s involvement in the AMIA bombings, died mysteriously of a gunshot wound to the temple, fired from a .22 revolver he did not own, with no apparent powder burns on his hands.
When police discovered Nisman’s bloody body behind the locked door of his Buenos Aires apartment, they treated the area as a crime scene, not a suicide, and immediately called in forensics investigators.
This and other indicators led the Daily Beast’s Christopher Dickey, a long-time aficionado of Iranian state terrorism, to speculate that Iran might have murdered Nisman to bury the evidence of bigger crimes.
My Iranian sources tell me there is no doubt of Iran’s efforts to coopt Argentinean president Cristina Kirchner, nor any doubt that Nisman’s death was a murder carried out by professionals.
I got involved in the AMIA investigation early on, and corresponded with Nisman’s first boss on the case, Judge Juan Jose Galeano, who eventually traveled to Washington, DC to meet with me. When Nisman ultimately took over the case and issued his indictment against the Iranian regime, he cited my evidence on more than a dozen occasions.
As I reported in 2003, a former Iranian intelligence officer, Abdolghassem Mesbahi, told the court that Iranian officials had paid $10 million into a Banque Degroof Luxembourg bank account in Switzerland that was controlled by then-president Carlos Menem, in exchange for his efforts to impede the AMIA investigation.
Menem’s denials were ultimately put to rest when the Swiss government froze the $10 million in his Banque Degroof accounts. One can only imagine what would have happened to Mrs. Kirschner’s denials had Nisman been able to testify on Monday to the Argentinean parliament.
Nisman has been under pressure from the Argentinean authorities for years. I contacted him again in 2007 to see if he would be willing to testify before the U.S. District for the Southern District of New York about what he had learned of Iran’s overseas terrorist operations, as part of the Iran-9/11 investigation I was involved in.
After several months of back and forth negotiations, he got back to me to say that his superiors had forbidden him from having any contact with the U.S. court, even though we merely wanted him to present the same evidence he had made public in the AMIA indictment.
Nisman had huge amounts of evidence that has not been made public, including transcripts of intercepts between the Iranian cultural attaché and Iranian expat taxi drivers in Buenos Aires who helped transport explosives used in the bombing, and other intercepts detailing the involvement of the Islamic Republic Shipping Lines and their local agents in conveying the explosives to Argentina.
The circumstances of Nisman’s murder – the dubious murder weapon, the door locked from the inside, the apparent absence of a struggle – remind me eerily of the November 2011 murder of Ahmad Rezai, the son of the former commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, Mohsen Rezai.
The younger Rezai was found dead in his room in a residence hotel in Dubai and was immediately declared a suicide by the Dubai police.
Because I had gotten to know him well (so well that he named his first child after my daughter), I flew to Dubai to investigate.
Although Rezai was a U.S. citizen, the U.S. consular authorities had no interest in investigating the case and provided no assistance to me or his U.S. family, who I was representing.
The Dubai authorities stonewalled but I went around them. From the medical examiner, I discovered that the cause of “suicide” – an overdose of anti-psychotic medicine – was not true: the amount found in Ahmad’s blood was normal.
Furthermore, upon interrogating hotel staff, I discovered that a known Russian mafia hitman had checked into a room just down the hall a few hours before Ahmad’s murder and disappeared the next day, even though he had paid a month’s rent in advance.
Needless to say, the Dubai police had never heard of the man, let alone interrogated him.
The morning of Ahmad’s death, an explosion rocked a huge missile facility west of Tehran, killing the father of Iran’s solid-fuel missile programs. I speculated in these pages that rivals of Ahmad’s father suspected father and son of seeking to reform the regime from within, an effort that is rejected by many Iranian opposition activists who believe that reform is impossible.
On Tuesday, an Iranian website controlled by the IRGC, identified the Foundation that I founded and chair as the regime’s Public Enemy #1.
It’s certainly not the first time the IRGC and their allies among the hardliners have identified me personally and my foundation as “enemies” of their revolution, because we support the right of Iranians to choose their form of government by democratic means.
But the timing of this latest version of the anti-jihadi hit parade seems no accident, coming on the heels of the assassination of Jihad Mugniyeh and the apparent murder of Alberto Nisman.
No one should underestimate the determination of the Iranian regime to use any means at its disposal to achieve its ends. Whether that means dispatching thousands of Revolutionary Guards fighters to Syria to prop up Assad, or murdering Americans in Iraq to hasten our departure, or providing safe haven and logistical assistance to al Qaeda, or funneling arms secretly to ISIS to stoke a fire they can boast to the gullible U.S. officials they are uniquely qualified to put out, the Islamic Republic of Iran is playing for keeps.
They have more case officers working for their intelligence services than we do in the United States, and have developed an entire branch of their military – the Quds Force – to carry out overseas terrorist operations.
They will not hesitate to murder people who get in their way, no matter their nationality or where they might be found.
They are playing hardball, and we are playing tiddlywinks. And yet, successive U.S. administration’s have thrown away advantages won by the blood of patriots – both Iranian and American – for empty promises made by known liars, assassins, and cheats.
When will we ever learn?
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