An explosive new documentary on Iran’s mysterious meddling in Argentina paints a dark picture of a regime whose tentacles of terrorism reach around the globe.
The Spanish-language "Los Abandonados" (The Abandoned), written and directed by Matthew Taylor, details the apparent murder of Argentinian special prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was gunned down in his home in January, the night before he was to reveal to congress bombshell evidence implicating Tehran in two deadly 1990s bombings targeting Jews -- and his own government in a subsequent coverup.
Nisman, who had for years been marked for death with an Islamist fatwa as a result of his persistent investigation, planned to show that the current government led by Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, including the president herself, was complicit in covering up Iran’s role in the attacks, according to the film. The allegations, endorsed in the film by a series of government officials and investigative reporters, leave little doubt that he was killed as a result of getting too close to the truth.
"Los Abandonados is a story of international intrigue – it links a nexus among Iranian terrorists, regional dynamics, corruption at the highest levels of Argentine government, and asks: Will justice ever be served for those responsible?" reads a promotion for the film, which will premiere Wednesday at Washington's Newseum.
“[On] more than one occasion he was threatened by Iran’s delegation.”
- Roberto Garcia Moritan, Argentina’s former vice minister of foreign affairs
Nisman was poised to highlight the government’s plot to cover up Iran’s role in the bombings in return for the illegal financing of Kirchner’s 2011 presidential campaign and for much-needed oil for Argentina provided by Iran in contravention of the international embargo, according to the film. Argentinian authorities categorically deny such claims.
Supporters of Nisman, who Argentinian authorities initially -- and improbably -- claimed had committed suicide, believe he was murdered by Iranian operatives. Nisman had spent 10 years investigating the background to the 1994 terrorist bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires, concluding that the attack, which killed 85, had been ordered by Tehran. That bombing came just two years after the similar 1992 bombing of Israel’s embassy in the same capital city that claimed the lives of 29 people.
“[On] more than one occasion he was threatened by Iran’s delegation,” said Roberto Garcia Moritan, Argentina’s former vice minister of foreign affairs. “[Nisman] was not only a meticulous, serious man, but also a very brave one.”
Argentina’s authorities appeared to have done nothing to stop a repeat bombing of a Jewish-Israeli target taking place and witnesses interviewed for the film highlight the unusual diplomatic activity that took place at Iran’s embassy shortly before the 1994 AMIA atrocity, as well as surveillance evidence. The Iranian Embassy staff had suddenly swelled from just three to around 60 people, all apparently with diplomatic immunity.
In an extraordinary interview early in the film, Romina Manguel, a reporter for Argentina’s La Nacion newspaper, reveals how the authorities simply ignored evidence in the bombed out AMIA building.
“Two weeks later, we were collecting evidence [from the site] that for some unexplainable reason had not been collected, not by the police, nor the firemen, nor the authorities,” Manguel recalled. “We took them in bags to the doors of the courthouse.”
It is widely accepted that the official investigation at the time was seriously flawed and later evidence suggested “a chain of alleged complicity involving the investigating judge [and] two senior prosecutors”… and that senior figures including “the Chief of Intelligence, the Minister of the Interior, and the then-President Carlos Menem,” may have been involved.
The film also highlights that, unbeknown to top Argentinian political figures suggested as being embroiled in the coverup of the terrorist atrocity, Nisman had years before been given official permission to place wire taps on all suspects and had compiled damning evidence that would incriminate both the president and the State of Iran -- evidence he was about to reveal.
Paul Alster is an Israel-based journalist. Follow him on Twitter @paul_alster and visit his website: www.paulalster.com