BUENOS AIRES — A special prosecutor who had accused Argentine President Cristina Fernandez of ordering impunity for Iranian suspects in the South American country’s worst terrorist attack was found shot dead, authorities said Monday.
Alberto Nisman, who was set to testify Jan. 19 in a closed-door hearing, was found in the bathroom of his Buenos Aires apartment late Jan. 18, Federal Prosecutor Viviana Fein told Telam, Argentina’s official news agency.
“We can confirm that it was a gunshot wound, .22 caliber,” she said, adding that it was too early in the investigation to know what had happened.
Nisman had been appointed 10 years ago by Fernandez’s late husband, then President Nestor Kirchner, to investigate the 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people and injured more than 200.
In 2013, Argentina and Iran reached an agreement to investigate the attack, which remains unsolved.
That year, Nisman released an indictment accusing Iran and Hezbollah of organizing the blast. Iran denies any involvement.
Last week, Nisman accused Fernandez and other senior Argentine officials of agreeing not to punish at least two former Iranian officials in the case. He asked a judge to call Fernandez and others, including Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, for questioning.
“The President and her Foreign Minister took the criminal decision to fabricate Iran’s innocence to sate Argentina’s commercial, political and geopolitical interests,” Nisman said last week.
Government officials called the prosecutor’s allegations ludicrous.
A federal judge had begun the process of deciding whether to hear the complaint and whether anyone should be summoned for questioning.
Late Jan. 18, federal police agents in charge of Nisman’s protection alerted their superiors that he wasn’t answering phone calls, according to a statement from the Health Ministry. When he also didn’t answer the door, they decided to alert family members, according to the statement.
When Nisman’s mother wasn’t able to open the door because a key was in the lock on the other side, a locksmith was called to open it, the ministry said. A .22 caliber handgun and a shell casing were found next to Nisman’s body.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry expressed “deep sorrow” over Nisman’s death.
“Nisman, a courageous, venerable jurist who fought intrepidly for justice, acted with determination to expose the identities of the terrorists and their dispatchers,” a ministry statement said.
By Almudena Calatrava. AP writer Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this report