July 18, 2024

Argentina president accused of threatening prosecutor


BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — President Alberto Fernández was engulfed in controversy Thursday after saying he hoped the prosecutor leading a corruption trial against Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner does not kill himself like, he claims, another prosecutor did after pressing charges against her.

The main opposition coalition, United for Change, characterized Fernandez’s statements as “a veiled threat against the federal prosecutor’s personal safety.” Some political leaders said they would seek charges against him.

Alberto Nisman died from a gunshot wound in January 2015, a day before he was scheduled to present evidence against then-President Cristina Fernández, whom he accused of conspiring with Iran to cover up its alleged involvement in a 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.

Allies of the former president insist Nisman died by suicide. But the opposition has long contended that he was murdered or was instigated to kill himself.

In a television interview Wednesday night, Fernández staunchly defended the vice president, who faces corruption charges related to public works contracts awarded during her 2007-2015 administration. This week, prosecutor Diego Luciani called for a 12-year sentence against the former president.

Fernández was asked how he interpreted a recent request by the Supreme Court to increase security for judges and prosecutors “because there’s always the memory of Nisman.”

Fernández said it was ridiculous to “promote the idea that what happened to Nisman can happen to prosecutor Luciani” and then he went further, saying that “So far, what happened to Nisman is that he committed suicide; nothing else has been proven until now.”

“I hope prosecutor Luciani doesn’t do something like that,” he added.

Nisman’s death under mysterious circumstances has become a source of frenzied speculation in Argentina with the issue falling squarely into the country’s deep divisions between supporters and critics of the former president.

The legal investigation of Nisman’s death remains open. Judge Julián Ercolini indicted one suspect in late 2017 as having been a “necessary participant” in Nisman’s death, which he is investigating as a murder. Others have been indicted as well.

Many opposition leaders and members of the judiciary were quick to condemn Fernández, who defended his words Thursday morning, saying there “has been an enormous misrepresentation of what I said.”

Fernández said the controversy was because he had challenged the idea pushed by many that Nisman was killed, “and the truth is that so far there is no proof to support such a thing.”

Patricia Bullrich, president of the opposition Republican Proposal party, on Thursday vowed to seek charges against the president for “threatening prosecutor Luciani.” Other opposition lawmakers also sought charges against the president for what they characterized as reckless and threatening statements.

The Association of Prosecutors and Officials from the Attorney General’s Office also repudiated Fernández’s words, which it characterized as “unpleasant and reckless toward an official who is only fulfilling his role.”