Another conflicting result has surfaced in the ongoing investigation into Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman's death, which remains an unsolved mystery of eight months with opinions divided as to whether he was killed or committed suicide.
Nisman was the prosecutor responsible for the investigation of the 1994 bomb attack on a Jewish community organization in downtown Buenos Aires which killed 85 and left hundreds injured. Despite the time elapsed the bombing remains unsolved with international complications since allegedly the attack was masterminded by Iran.
Nisman was found shot in the head last January in his flat when he was preparing for a congressional hearing the following day, allegedly claiming there was a cover-up scheme in the AMIA case involving top officials from the government of president Cristina Fernandez.
Now for the first time in the investigation into the death of Nisman, experts have confirmed that three separate laboratory analyses performed on the weapon believed to have killed him tested positive for traces of gunpowder residue. The samples were analyzed at the Tax Information Centre in the Argentine northern Salta province.
This contrasted with earlier tests on the late special prosecutor’s hands, on which no gunpowder residue (consisting of barium, antimony and lead) was detected. However, forensic experts involved stressed that the results were dependent on highly specific environmental circumstances, and that there remained a strong possibility that further tests with even a slight change in environmental conditions would yield different results.
These results, however, are likely to spark further speculation as to how Nisman met his end. One of the tests performed in Salta involved the covering of a mannequin hand in pig skin, biologically and chemically similar to human skin, and shooting the same model of Bersa.22 gun to check for gunpowder residue.
Three electronic scans were then performed, and all of them tested positive, unlike Nisman’s own hands after similar tests performed on them.
In the face of this latest development, explanations emerged as to what could have caused the presence of gunpowder to have been detected on the gun months after the prosecutor was found dead at his Puerto Madero apartment.
One explanation, accounting for the now conflicting test results, suggested that the Federal Police had taken a faulty sample at Nisman’s apartment in the immediate aftermath of his death. The other explanation speculated that the late special prosecutor had not been holding the gun when it was fired.
Viviana Fein, the prosecutor leading the investigation into Nisman’s death, announced that the definitive conclusion as to precisely what led to the late prosecutor’s death in January this year may not be ready until after the general election on October 25.
“What I can say is that there is no deadline for the investigation, and that I will not retire or move away. I’m not leaving the case. I will continue to research,” Fein said when asked whether results would be ready before this year’s general election.
Fein also reiterated that with competing hypotheses into precisely how Nisman, who was discovered dead from a bullet wound to the head in his Puerto Madero apartment on January 18, had died, all possible conclusions remained on the table and none had been rejected outright.
“There are absolutely no discarded hypotheses,” she said, adding that it was better to reserve judgment on the case than offer theories without complete certainty. One “should only give an opinion when you absolutely know what happened,” she said.
Speaking on the Guetap radio program, Fein also hit out at strongly worded criticism of the way she had conducted the investigation, saying that she “was upset” and “resented the terminology,” of Federal San Isidro Judge Sandra Arroyo Salgado, Nisman’s ex-wife, whose lawyers had called Fein’s efforts on the Nisman case “a shitty investigation.”
Last week, the Buenos Aires Criminal Appeals Court rejected an attempt to displace Fein from the case submitted by Nisman’s daughters, who had joined the Attorney Ricardo Sáenz in arguing that Fein should be removed and suggesting that the examining magistrate Fabiana Palmaghini should assume control of the investigation in her stead.
Meanwhile, Arroyo Salgado demanded the Supreme Court to intervene in the case in order to have “things put in place.”
“For the prosecutor (Fein), Nisman shot himself with gloves, he took them off after he died and threw them through the window,” the San Isidro judge said in statements to the Mitre radio station as she revealed the insurance company paid her 1,600 pesos for each of Nisman’s daughters and 22,000 pesos “that we used for an appeal process before the (Supreme) Court” to demand the recusal.