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Dead Argentine prosecutor 'feared his bodyguards'

AFP/Alejandro Pagni

The friend who gave prosecutor Alberto Nisman a .22-caliber revolver, which was later used in his death, told a news conference on Wednesday that Nisman had asked for the gun because he feared his own bodyguards.

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A tense Diego Lagomarsino (pictured above), his voice breaking at times, recounted at a news conference in Buenos Aires how Nisman had pleaded for the .22-caliber revolver that later killed him. Investigators are still looking into whether his death was murder or a suicide, as an initial inquiry found.

Lagomarsino, a computer expert and the last person known to have seen Nisman alive, said the prosecutor was desperate for the gun, saying: "I no longer trust even my guards."

"He told me that he was not going to use the weapon," Lagomarsino said.

According to Lagomarsino, Nisman told him that he also feared for the safety of his two daughters, who are 7 and 15 years old and who were on vacation in Spain at the time.

"Do you know what it is like that your daughters don't want to be with you because they are afraid something will happen to them?" Lagomarsino quoted Nisman as saying.

Lagomarsino, who had been reluctant to hand the gun over, said Nisman badly wanted it to "carry it in the glove compartment in case some crazy person came by shouting, 'You traitor!'"

"This was a weapon that was truly on its last legs," he added.

After Nisman's death, Lagomarsino was charged with giving a firearm to someone other than its registered owner. He is the only person to be charged so far in the murky case.

Security chief under investigation

Nisman's security chief has been suspended and is under investigation along with two other members of his guard detail, a court source said.

Ruben Benitez, a Nisman confidant who has been suspended, coordinated a security team of 10 officers who protected the prosecutor.

According to a leaked statement made to the investigation's head prosecutor, Benitez said he advised Nisman against buying a gun just days before his death.

But the suspended officers have come under scrutiny for contradictory statements to the investigating prosecutor, Viviana Fein.

The 51-year-old special prosecutor was found dead at his home January 18, a day before he was to go before a congressional committee to testify that President Cristina Kirchner and her foreign minister helped shield Iranian officials who were implicated in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires in which 85 people were killed and 300 injured.

The prosecutor had spent 10 years investigating the bombing at the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA), which remains unsolved. Nisman’s testimony was to include accusations that Kirchner, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and other top officials had agreed to protect the Iranian officials who allegedly masterminded the attack.

A week before his death, Nisman had filed a 280-page complaint charging that Kirchner had issued an "express directive" to shield a group of Iranian suspects.

Kirchner denies the claims and alleges that Nisman's death was part of a plot to discredit her, suggesting Nisman was manipulated by former intelligence agents who then killed him.

Nisman contended that the government had agreed to swap grain for oil with Tehran in exchange for withdrawing the Interpol "red notices" seeking the arrests of the former and current Iranian officials accused in the bombing.

On Monday, Kirchner, 61, announced plans to disband Argentina's Intelligence Office and replace it with a new federal intelligence agency.

Investigators initially said they believed Nisman committed suicide, but classified his death as "suspicious" and said they have not ruled out murder or an "induced suicide".

Those close to the late prosecutor have doubted from the beginning that he killed himself. Friends described him as upbeat ahead of his scheduled appearance before Congress on Monday.

In a sudden reversal last week, Kirchner said she did not believe Nisman committed suicide.

Nisman was buried at a small family-only ceremony on Wednesday at a Jewish cemetery on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. Some demonstrators showed their respects outside by waving signs reading "Cristina = Killer" and "We are all Nisman."

Kirchner was planning to travel to key economic partner China on Saturday despite the political maelstrom back home.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

 

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