Argentine prosecutor laid to rest amid mystery over his death

The funeral cortege carrying the remains of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman heads for La Tablada Israelite cemetery in Buenos Aires, on Jan 29, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
The funeral cortege carrying the remains of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman heads for La Tablada Israelite cemetery in Buenos Aires, on Jan 29, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP

LA TABLADA, Argentina (AFP) - The special prosecutor whose mysterious death set off a political firestorm in Argentina was laid to rest Thursday, as an investigation tries to determine whether he died by his own hand or was murdered.

Alberto Nisman, 51, was buried in a Jewish cemetery on the outskirts of Buenos Aires near several of the victims who died in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish charity known as AMIA.

Nisman had spent the last 14 years of his life trying to unravel who carried out the horrific attack, which killed 85 people and injured another 300.

But on Jan 18, one day before he was to have appeared before a congressional panel to present evidence in the case, Nisman was found dead at his home of a single bullet wound to the head.

People familiar with his investigation said Nisman had planned to make a bombshell accusation - that President Cristina Kirchner shielded Iranian officials implicated in the bombing.

At his funeral, hundreds of protesters, convinced that he was a victim of foul play, gathered in front of the cemetery, some holding placards demanding "Justice for Nisman."

"It is a great injustice. He was threatened," said Cristina Paredes, 53, who said Nisman's death "is the straw the broke the camel's back" for Argentines fed up with Kirchner and accusations of corruption by her administration.

The death was mourned as far away as Israel, which hailed Nisman - son of a textile merchant who had studied law at the University of Buenos Aires - as "courageous."

Nisman's mother, and sister were among the mourners in the funeral cortege, as was his ex-wife, federal judge Sandra Arroyo Salgado, mother to his two daughters, ages seven and 15.

The girl bade their father a poignant farewell in an obituary published Thursday in the La Nacion daily newspaper.

'TODAY WE SAY GOODBYE'

"Papa, we your daughters Iara and Kala, all we ever wanted was you - your presence and sharing good times with you.

"Today we say goodbye, understanding your dedication to your work," they wrote.

The car bombing of the AMIA remains a wound in the collective history of Argentina's Jewish community, Latin America's largest.

Two decades later, no prosecution has been completed in the case.

Nisman was on the verge of presenting evidence which suggested the government had agreed to swap grain for oil with Teheran in exchange for withdrawing "red notices" to Interpol seeking the arrests of the former and current Iranian officials accused in the bombing.

Kirchner denies the claims, alleging that Nisman's death - which initially was suspected suicide - was a plot to discredit her, suggesting Nisman was manipulated by former intelligence agents who then killed him to smear her.

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."

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

A contingent of 10 body assigned to provide him with round the clock protection did not prevent his death.

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

In the days following his death, thousands of protesters took to the streets across the nation, waving placards that read "Yo soy Nisman (I am Nisman)."