Argentina prosecutor who accused president of secret deals with Iran mysteriously found dead

AFP PHOTO / TELAM / CLAUDIO FANCHI

The Argentine prosecutor who last week accused President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of trying to absolve Iranian officials from their involvement in the most deadly terrorist attack in the nation’s history has been found dead in his apartment.

Alberto Nisman’s body was discovered by his mother and a police officer in the bathroom of his apartment last night alongside a gun and the shell of a bullet, according to a statement by the Security Ministry, which didn’t provide the cause of death. Nisman was scheduled to present evidence for his accusations against Fernandez at a lower house commission today. He was 51, according to local media.

“The autopsy has already begun,” Prosecutor Viviana Fein, who is in charge of the investigation into Nisman’s death, told reporters in Buenos Aires today. “There were no witnesses or neighbors and there was no letter.”

Nisman alleged that Fernandez and her Foreign Minister Hector Timerman had sought to cover up an investigation he was heading into the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center that left 85 people dead and hundreds injured. Fernandez will need to show she’s fully co-operating with the investigation to ensure that Nisman’s death doesn’t tarnish the prospects of candidates from her alliance seeking to succeed her in presidential elections in October, said Buenos Aires-based political analyst Sergio Berensztein.

“This could constitute what’s commonly referred to as a black swan event in the sense that it could have an impact that’s impossible to determine today but that could be very significant in the electoral campaign,” Berensztein said. “If the president puts herself at the disposal of the investigation and provides all the tools needed so that this is cleared up quickly, she could emerge strengthened by this.”

The Public Prosecutor’s Office named Alberto Gentili as Nisman’s replacement until Jan. 31. Gentili worked with Nisman on the investigation of the 1994 bombing.

AFP PHOTO / TELAM / CLAUDIO FANCHINisman was found dead just hours before he was due to testify at a congressional hearing. “I can confirm that a .22-caliber handgun was found beside the body,” prosecutor Viviana Fein said.

Nisman’s mother and federal police officers assigned to protect the prosecutor entered the apartment after repeatedly trying to contact him on Sunday by telephone and by ringing the door bell. Since the door was locked from the inside, a locksmith was called to open it. Once inside, his mother and the policemen found Nisman’s body blocking the door in the bathroom. Next to the body was a caliber 22 pistol and a bullet casing.

“In criminal investigations when you have a body, a weapon and a bullet shell evidently things point in a certain direction but we’ll have to wait and see if the investigation corroborates this,” Security Secretary Sergio Berni said in an interview on Radio Nacional Rock. “We’re very respectful of what the family must be experiencing at the moment so we can’t give any more details.”

Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich said in his daily press conference he had nothing to add to the statement released by the Security Ministry and that investigations into the cause of death were being carried out.

AFP PHOTO / TELAM / CLAUDIO FANCHI

AFP PHOTO / TELAM / CLAUDIO FANCHIPicture released by Telam showing members of the Argentine Naval Command carrying the lifeless body of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman, 51, out of his flat in the trendy Puerto Madero neighbourhood in Buenos Aires.

Lawmaker Patricia Bullrich of the opposition PRO party told TN news channel today that she had spoken to Nisman on Jan. 17 to co-ordinate his visit to Congress today.

“He told me had been threatened and that he was studying the case, that he was going to give us some very strong evidence and for that reason he had requested that the meeting should be private,” Bullrich said.

Nisman’s allegation is one of multiple court cases against Fernandez and her government that threaten to weaken her influence over elections in which a candidate for her party is tied in polls with two aspirants opposed to her government.

Argentine prosecutors in 2006 charged Iran and the Hezbollah group with organizing the 1994 bombing and issued eight arrest warrants, one of them for former President Ayatollah Ali Akbar Rafsanjani.

Seven years later, Fernandez said she signed a memorandum of understanding with the Iranians to set up a truth commission into the bombing.

AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd

AP Photo/Rodrigo AbdA woman walks next to a mural with the names of people who died in the 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The mural reads in Spanish “Memory and Justice.”

According to Nisman, the aim of the accord was for Iranian officials to be taken off Interpol’s wanted list. In exchange, Argentina would export grains and meat to Iran and receive oil.

Timerman said Jan. 15 that the accusations were “lies” and accused Nisman of trying to stoke up sentiment against Fernandez’s government during a year in which Argentines will vote for a new president.

Since the formal accusations had already been made, it’s likely that public pressure to see the evidence Nisman had against the government will make it difficult to cover up now, Berensztein said.

Buenos Aires province Governor Daniel Scioli, who plans to run for the presidency under Fernandez’s Victory Front coalition, had 24.7 per cent of voter support against 23.7 per cent for Buenos Aires City Mayor Mauricio Macri and 17.2 per cent for lawmaker Sergio Massa in a Nov. 26-Dec. 3 poll of 2,400 people carried out by Management & Fit. The survey had a margin of error of two percentage points.

AFP PHOTO/Ali BURAFI

AFP PHOTO/Ali BURAFIFiremen, policemen and rescuers search for wounded people after a bomb exploded at the Argentinian Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires on July 18, 1994, killing 85 people and injuring about 300 others in the worst attack of its kind in the South American country.

In a Jan. 2-5 Polldata survey of 1,680 people, Massa led with 26.3 per cent against 24.5 per cent for Scioli and 21.1 per cent for Macri.

Fernandez’s government, which was censured in 2013 by the International Monetary Fund for misreporting its economic data, has created an atmosphere of mistrust with the public that may make it difficult for it to dismiss accusations of foul play, Berensztein said.

“There’s a problem in Argentina of a lack of credibility in public announcements because of the constant manipulation of statistics, which leads to predictable doubts,” Berensztein said.

With assistance from Daniel Cancel in Buenos Aires.

Parents billed $24 for a ‘no-show fee’ after 5-year-old son misses birthday party

LONDON — It was not what Derek Nash expected to find in his 5-year-old’s school bag: A bill demanding a “no-show fee” for another child’s birthday party.

Nash said the bill from another parent sought 15.95 pounds ($24.00) because his son Alex had not attended the party at a ski centre in Plymouth, southwest England.

Five-year-old boy gets a bill for missing school friend’s birthday party owl.li/HxxgR http://t.co/kBcK8w7iWo
Plymouth Herald (@PlymouthHerald) January 19, 2015

Nash told the BBC on Monday he had initially accepted the party invitation, but later realized Alex was supposed to visit his grandparents that day. He said he did not have contact details to let the other family know.

The birthday boy’s mother, Julie Lawrence, told the BBC that her contact details were on the party invitation.

Nash says Lawrence has threatened him with small claims court but he has no plans so far to pay.

Man trapped under subway train at Toronto’s Broadview station, paramedics say

A man was trapped beneath a subway train Monday morning after he was struck on the tracks at Toronto’s Broadview station, paramedics said.

ALL CLEAR: The delay at Broadview station has cleared. Service has resumed on Line 2 with residual delay.#TTC


Official TTC Tweets (@TTCnotices) January 19, 2015

Around 10:15 a.m., Toronto Paramedics were called to the station after the man was struck by the train. By 11 a.m., he was still trapped under the train and crews were working to free him, EMS spokesperson Kim McKinnon said.

She could not comment on the victim’s condition. Officers on scene reported that the man was “still conscious and breathing and talking to them,” Toronto Police spokesman Const. David Hopkinson said.

The victim was freed and taken to hospital, Const. Hopkinson said.

Service on the Bloor-Danforth line was suspended between Woodbine Station and St. George Station. But service was restored around 11:15 a.m., the TTC tweeted.