Argentines rally to honour dead prosecutor Alberto Nisman

Up to 400,000 gather in Buenos Aires for ‘March of Silence’ held in torrential rain

 

Hundreds of thousands of Argentines took to the streets on Wednesday night to demand justice for prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who died in mysterious circumstances four days after accusing President Cristina Kirchner of seeking to cover up Iran’s role in the country’s worst-ever terrorist attack.

The so-called March of Silence was organised by colleagues of Nisman to mark the passing of one month since his death. Up to 400,000 people are estimated to have filled central Buenos Aires, with tens of thousands more joining similar gatherings in Córdoba, Rosario, Santa Fé and other cities.

Under a torrential late summer downpour the crowds set off from the congress building to the Plaza de Mayo where the presidential palace stands. Those taking part broke the silence with chants of “Justice!” while others held up placards claiming “We Are All Nisman”.

The prosecutor was found dead from a gunshot wound in his apartment the day before he was to give details to congress about what he claimed was a secret deal between Ms Kirchner and Iran to help the latter avoid responsibility for its role in the 1994 terrorist attack of a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people.

At first authorities said Nisman had taken his own life but they have since admitted he may have been murdered. An investigation is ongoing though its conduct has already been subject of criticism by Nisman’s family.

Among those taking part in Wednesday’s march was Sandra Arroyo Salgado, Nisman’s ex-wife, who was accompanied by his eldest daughter Iara and his mother. Herself a judge, Ms Arroyo Salgado is now conducting her own investigation into his death. Speaking to local radio yesterday she said “in no way” did she accept that her former husband killed himself. She called for an international investigation.

A recent opinion poll found that 70 per cent of Argentines do not believe that Nisman took his own life, with 60 per cent of those questioned blaming the government for his death.

Ms Kirchner has dismissed Nisman’s accusations against her as “absurd”. She claims he was manipulated by rouggue spies who then killed him to smear her, and she has since abolished the country’s intelligence secretariat. She avoided Wednesday’s march, leaving the capital to attend a ceremony at a nuclear reactor named after her deceased husband and predecessor Néstor.

In a hardline speech she made no mention of the demonstration but said she was proud that she could go to any country in the world “including those countries that have clandestine prisons, I can go to countries where they launch missiles against civilian populations, I can go there and say in Argentina the law reigns supreme”.

Yesterday several of her ministers tried to downplay the importance of the huge turnout, with cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich claiming that “behind the silence, the demonstration was an opposition rally”.

Despite a reported order from the president that her supporters to remain silent about the march, one of her party militants caused controversy as the crowds gathered in Buenos Aires under the heavy rain. Alex Freyre, the head of the Sexual Diversity Memorial Archive, tweeted that God was about to vomit on them and, as the rain intensified, that the president’s deceased husband was urinating on those present.

He later took the tweets down and apologised. Mr Freyre first came to international attention when he led the campaign for same-sex marriage in Argentina. As controversy about his tweets swirled his husband José María Di Bello also took to Twitter to announce they were separated and in the process of divorcing.

Though organisers said the march was a call for justice and non-political, among those who took part were two likely opposition candidates in this October’s presidential elections, the right-wing mayor of Buenos Aires Mauricio Macri and the dissident Peronist Sergio Massa, Ms Kirchner’s former cabinet chief before he broke with her in 2013. A congresswoman from Mr Macri’s party said after the march it was time to study “the possibility of seeking political justice” against Ms Kirchner.

Next week a federal judge is set to decide if there is enough evidence to proceed with an investigation against the president after she was formally charged by one of Nisman’s colleagues, based on evidence gathered by the deceased prosecutor.