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Another Twist In An Argentine Prosecutor's Mysterious Death

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And now for another astonishing twist to the story of the mysterious death of a prosecutor in Argentina. Alberto Nisman had been investigating whether the Argentine government covered up an Iranian connection to the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in the capital, Buenos Aires. We reached New York Times reporter Simon Romero, who's on the line from Buenos Aires for the latest. Good morning.

SIMON ROMERO: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: And now, Nisman was found dead in his apartment, shot in the head, initially thought to be a suicide. But that's now in question. You report, before he died, Nisman drafted documents actually seeking the arrest of the president. Tell us about that.

ROMERO: You know, it really is an incredible twist in this story. Investigators who are looking into the death of the prosecutor, Mr. Nisman, found a draft of a request for the arrest of Argentina's president and the country's foreign minister. And this news was reported locally over the weekend. And then, it was called into dispute by the president's cabinet chief. And then, the lead investigator into Nisman's death on Tuesday came back and said, actually, that the report was true, that they had found this draft. And it was in the garbage in Mr. Nisman's apartment. And so the news just came out like a bombshell here in Argentina.

MONTAGNE: Well, how does this arrest warrant change the investigation into Nisman's death?

ROMERO: Well, at the very least, it points to a great deal of tension between Nisman and Argentina's government. The drafted documents were dated from June, 2014, which means that the prosecutor had been working on this matter for months before he was found dead and months before he went public with his accusations in January.

MONTAGNE: And so before his death, Nisman handed his report on the bombing to the government but didn't include this warrant - why not?

ROMERO: Well, it's hard to say. And no one really knows what was going through his mind in those days before he was found dead - perhaps because it would've been just a step too far. You know, political analysts here in Argentina say it would've been unprecedented in the country for a prosecutor to request the arrest of a sitting president.

MONTAGNE: Is the president immune, though, from arrest by virtue of being president?

ROMERO: That's correct. The president would have immunity from arrest. But if this request were to go forward and a judge would actually issue the warrant for her arrest, he would also have to start a process in which Congress would have to lift the president's immunity for that arrest to actually take place.

MONTAGNE: Simon Romero is South America correspondent for The New York Times, speaking to us from Buenos Aires. Thanks very much.

ROMERO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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