Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor whose mysterious death has gripped Argentina, had drafted a warrant for the arrest of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, accusing her of trying to shield Iranian officials from responsibility in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center here, the lead investigator into his death said Tuesday.
The 26-page document, found in the garbage at Nisman’s apartment, also requested the arrest of Héctor Timerman, Argentina’s foreign minister. Both Fernández and Timerman have repeatedly denied Nisman’s accusation that they tried to reach a secret deal with Iran to lift international arrest warrants for Iranian officials wanted in connection with the bombing.
The new revelation that Nisman had drafted arrest warrants for the president and the foreign minister further illustrates the heightened tensions between him and the government before he was found dead Jan. 18 at his apartment with a gunshot wound to his head. He had been scheduled the next day to provide details before Congress about his accusations against Fernández.
“It would have provoked a crisis without precedents in Argentina,” Sergio Berensztein, a political analyst, said about the impact of the warrants if they had been issued.
He acknowledged that previous legal cases had shaken Argentina’s political establishment, but he emphasized that this case involved a request to arrest a sitting president.
“It would have been a scandal on a level previously unseen,” Berensztein said.
Fernández, who is on a visit to China, issued a stream of updates on Twitter about strengthening ties between Buenos Aires and Beijing but did not comment immediately on the confirmation that Nisman had considered seeking her arrest. She and the foreign minister have previously pointed to statements by Interpol’s former director that the Argentine government did not lobby it to lift the Iranian arrest warrants.
Viviana Fein, the prosecutor investigating Nisman’s death, confirmed Tuesday morning that Nisman had prepared the draft of the warrant requesting the president’s arrest. Confusion about the document had emerged when Fein had initially denied its existence, after the newspaper Clarín published an article Sunday about the draft.
Fernández’s Cabinet chief, Jorge Capitanich, tore up the article before reporters Monday. But then Fein corrected her earlier statement and confirmed the existence of the draft, which Clarín said was prepared in June, more than six months before Nisman went public with his accusations against the president.
“The words I should have used are, ‘It’s evident that there was a draft,’” Fein said in comments broadcast on Argentine radio.
The draft of the arrest warrants was not included in a 289-page criminal complaint against Fernández, the foreign minister and prominent supporters of the president that Nisman filed. Nisman accused them of derailing his decade-long investigation into the 1994 bombing of the Argentina Israelite Mutual Association, commonly called AMIA, which left 85 people dead.
Two judges have refused to take the case made by Nisman, raising the possibility that his complaint could languish in Argentina’s legal system if another judge is not found to continue it. A federal chamber is expected to decide who should take the case.
Fernández and senior officials have criticized Nisman’s complaint, disputing his findings and contending that agents from Argentina’s premier intelligence services were involved in preparing it. In the uproar around the prosecutor’s death, Fernández announced a plan last week to overhaul the intelligence agency, following a purge of its leadership in December.
Meanwhile, the investigation into Nisman’s death is proceeding as theories swirl in Argentina about whether it was a suicide or a killing. Fernández has suggested that Nisman’s death is part of a plot to tarnish her government.
Underscoring the tension surrounding the death of Nisman, who was buried at a Jewish cemetery last week, anti-Semitic posters began appearing in central Buenos Aires this week. They read: “The good Jew is the dead Jew. The good Jew is Nisman.”
Julio Schlosser, the president of the Delegation of Argentine Jewish Associations, said, “These posters represent a current of anti-Semitism seeking to insult the prosecutor Nisman, who worked and dedicated his life to the AMIA case.” He added, “It is also a provocation to the Jewish community.”