President Cristina Kirchner said that she will disband Argentina’s intelligence service after a prosecutor was found dead just hours before he was to make explosive allegations against her.
Alberto Nisman, 51, was found in his Buenos Aires home with a gunshot to the head on January 18, the day before he was to go before a congressional hearing to accuse Kirchner of obstructing his investigation into a 1994 bombing at a Jewish charities federation office.
She denies the claims and says Nisman’s death — which initially was suspected suicide — was a plot to discredit her.
Kirchner, who is scrambling to protect her record and legacy, said Monday: “The plan is to dissolve the Intelligence Secretariat, and create a Federal Intelligence Agency.”
The leadership of the agency will be chosen by the president but subject to Senate approval.
Kirchner had removed the leadership of the current intelligence service as recently as December.
She said she would send her intelligence system reform bill to Congress before she leaves for China next week, and swiftly scheduled special congressional sessions for it to be taken up.
Kirchner also took aim at Diego Lagomarsino, a Nisman colleague who lent Nisman the pistol with which the prosecutor was killed. Lagomarsino on Monday was charged with giving a gun to someone who is not its registered owner, officials said.
“Lagomarsino is not just a staunch opponent of the Government,” Kirchner said suggesting his brother’s work on behalf of Clarin newspaper, in her view, raised red flags. She has had a long-running feud with the paper.
– Murky circumstances –
The 1994 attack, which killed 85 people, has never been solved.
Nisman had accused Kirchner and her foreign minister Hector Timerman of shielding Iranian officials implicated in the bombing of the Argentine-Jewish Mutual Association.
After his death, Kirchner suggested Nisman had been manipulated by former intelligence agents who then killed him to smear her. Kirchner has offered no evidence to support her theory, and did not say who she thought was behind Nisman’s death.
But aides in recent days have pointed to former intelligence officials who were recently fired, including the former chief of operations of the Intelligence Secretariate, Antonio Stiusso, who worked closely with Nisman.
Investigators have said Nisman’s death appeared to be suicide, but it has been classified as a “suspicious” death and homicide or an “induced suicide” have not been ruled out.
Nisman contended that the government had agreed to swap grain for oil with Tehran in exchange for withdrawing “red notices” to Interpol seeking the arrests of the former and current Iranian officials accused in the case.
– ‘Full security’ –
A top Kirchner aide meanwhile offered assurances that journalists enjoy “full security” in Argentina, after a reporter who revealed the Nisman death fled to Israel saying he feared for his safety.
Damian Pachter left Argentina on Saturday, saying he had received threats and was being followed.
“In Argentina, there is full security for all journalists,” cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich said.
“There is no obstacle for any journalist to express whatever he thinks.”
Pachter, a journalist for the English-language Buenos Aires Herald who holds dual Argentine-Israeli citizenship, told colleagues his phones had been tapped.
In a column published by Israel’s Haaretz daily entitled “Why I fled Argentina after breaking the story of Alberto Nisman’s death,” Pachter recounted the intimidation that led him to leave Argentina.
He also criticized Argentina’s Telam national news agency and the Twitter account of the Casa Rosada presidential palace for publishing information about his plane tickets, which included a return date.