The initial government reports declaring the death of Alberto Nisman to be a suicide arrived suspiciously fast.
For starters, Nisman, a high-ranking Argentine prosecutor, had left no suicide note. More curiously, his cause of death⎯a gunshot to head⎯had no exit wound, giving rise to the theory that he had been shot from a distance. Next, a forensics analysis of his body determined that there were no traces of gunpowder on Nisman's fingers, constituting yet another red flag. Then, contrary to reports, a locksmith said he had found a hidden service door that had been left open when he was first called to Nisman's apartment.
Beyond all this, however, was the fact that Nisman was found dead hours before he was set to deliver damning testimony against the Argentine government. Nisman, who had been tasked with investigating the 1994 attack on a Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, said he had definitive proof that the government had tried to negotiate a deal to safeguard Iranian officials from prosecution in the attack in exchange for access to Iran's energy market.
“The president and her foreign minister took the criminal decision to fabricate Iran’s innocence to sate Argentina’s commercial, political and geopolitical interests,” Nisman told reporters last week. (A number of Argentine officials deny the claims.) Nisman also delivered another noteworthy quote last week: "I might get out of this dead," he told a journalist.
The 1994 attack against the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina in Buenos Aires, a community center belonging to Latin America's largest Jewish population, was shocking not only because it was the worst act of terrorism in Argentina's history, but also because it was one of the deadliest anti-Semitic attacks since the end of World War II. The bombing, which killed 85 people and leveled the seven-story AMIA building, took place less than five miles from where, in 1960, Israeli Mossad agents famously nabbed Adolf Eichmann, Hitler's right-hand man, who had been living comfortably (and unrepentantly) in Buenos Aires for a decade.
More than 20 years later, the case of the AMIA bombing remains unsolved. While Hezbollah and Iran have been widely implicated and even formally charged in the attack, a string of botched inquiries, along with a benumbing chain of what many believe to be government cover-ups, bribes, and nefarious diplomatic machinations, have kept the attackers safe from justice.
While Argentina's leadership stood to lose greatly from Nisman's testimony, others yet point out that the direct implication of Iran would also damage the regime. "Twenty-one years after the AMIA bombing, Iran has successfully shed its pariah status while retaining terrorism as an instrument of policy," wrote Armin Rosen at Business Insider. "Nisman's investigation threatened to upset that balance, partly by exposing how Iran managed this feat in the first place." (Nisman's death also came hours after an Israeli strike killed an Iranian general along with six members of Hezbollah in Syria.)
On Thursday, Argentina's President Cristina Kirchner finally said what most others were already thinking, namely that "the suicide (I'm convinced) was no suicide." Nisman has since been named the AMIA bombing's "86th victim" in a number of tributes.