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Prosecutor's Mysterious Death Grips Argentina


A dead investigator, a disgruntled spy, a humble locksmith, an embattled president and, of course, a connection to the Middle East. Sounds like the plot of a new thriller, but it's actually a real-life murder mystery that is gripping Argentina. Today, Argentina's president said she believed a prosecutor investigating the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center there was murdered. NPR South America correspondent Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports on the latest in the mysterious death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: Since Alberto Nisman's death on Sunday, the government and investigators had maintained that the evidence pointed to suicide. The prosecutor was discovered in what they claimed was his locked apartment with a gunshot to the head and a pistol with one bullet casing next to him, but the timing was highly suspicious.

Nisman, who had been investigating the bombing for many years, was about to present evidence in a closed-door session of Congress. He said it would show that Argentina's sitting president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, had been obstructing the investigation into the attack on the Jewish community center in which 84 people were killed and hundreds injured. Nisman maintained that Iran and its proxy, the Shiite Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, were behind the attack. He said that he had proof that showed that the government was trying to cement a deal for Iranian oil and sought to bury evidence implicating Iran.

On Tuesday, the results of an autopsy revealed that Nisman had no gunpowder residue on his hands. Investigators said that was not uncommon because of the small caliber of the gun, but it further called into question the suicide theory. Adding to the deepening mystery, the locksmith, who was called in to open the door to Nisman's apartment after police and his family tried unsuccessfully to reach him on the day of his death, claimed that the backdoor entrance to the apartment was open.

UNIDENTIFIED LOCKSMITH: (Foreign language spoken).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: He was swarmed by reporters after giving his testimony to police and has become an unlikely celebrity in the case. Lastly, investigators have also found a third access to the home, where a recent footprint and fingerprint were discovered. People have been accusing the president and her government of being involved.

On Twitter, CFKAsesina, which stands for Cristina Fernandez Kirchner Killer, started trending. In the latest twist today, President Fernandez released her own bombshell. She took to social media to say that she now also did not believe Nisman had committed suicide. She wrote, quote, "they used him while he was alive and then they needed him dead." She did not explain who she meant by they, but her chief of staff alleged yesterday that Nisman had been fed erroneous information implicating the government by a disgruntled former spy in an attempt to discredit the president.

Meanwhile, the evidence that Nisman was going to present has been made public. The transcript of phone taps shows a history of secret negotiations between Iran and Argentina's government over a grain for oil deal. Argentina's government says Nisman's allegations were feeble and unfounded. As for the original bombing case that took place over to twenty years ago, it remains unresolved. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.
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