A computer technician who gave Argentinean prosecutor Alberto Nisman the handgun found next to his body said he loaned the dead investigator the firearm because the official feared for the lives of his daughters.
“He told me: ‘Don’t worry. I am only going to keep it in my glove compartment just in case some crazy person comes up to me and calls me a traitor or a bastard,’” Diego Lagomarsino told reporters on Wednesday night.
Nisman, who had filed cover-up charges against President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and other officials in connection with a 1994 terrorist bombing investigation, reportedly told his friend that he feared for his life after the government publicly criticized his action.
Nisman wanted to borrow the handgun from his friend because he “was afraid” for his daughters’ safety
“Why do you want the gun?” Lagomarsino recalled asking Nisman. “He told me: ‘To be honest I am afraid for the girls.’”
The 51-year-old Nisman, who was divorced, was found inside the bathroom of his apartment lying in a pool of blood with a gunshot wound to his head on January 18 – four days after he filed the charges. A .22 caliber pistol, the one that belonged to Lagomarsino, was found near his body.
Nisman had accused the president, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman and other officials of conspiring to derail his investigation into the 1994 car bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center, which left 85 people dead and many injured. About a half-dozen former Iranian officials were accused of taking part in the bombing.
The prosecutor said he had evidence that showed that Fernández de Kirchner was trying to negotiate a grain-for-oil pact with Iran in exchange for impunity for the wanted suspects.
The government has vehemently denied this theory.
Nisman’s funeral was held Thursday in Buenos Aires. Large crowds gathered along the route that took the hearse from the funeral home to the La Tablada Israelite cemetery. Hundreds of people applauded and shouted to demand justice for Nisman’s death. His ex-wife and two daughters, ages seven and 15, were also present during the ceremony.
As of Thursday, authorities had not officially ruled on Nisman’s death. No gunshot residue was found on his hands.
With his voice breaking, Lagomarsino said Nisman told him he didn’t even trust his own bodyguards.
“At that moment, he broke down and told me: ‘Do you know what it’s like when your daughters don’t want to be with you because they are afraid that something might happen to them?’
“I told him, ‘Alberto, it’s an old handgun, a .22. How are you going to defend yourself with that?’ And then he told me: ‘The only favor I ask of you and you are not willing to help me?”
The prosecutor promised to return the handgun in about two weeks, “when everything is over”
The computer technician, who says he has been shocked by the unfolding events, was prohibited from leaving the country after he testified before an investigative judge in Buenos Aires. He was charged with illegally providing someone a weapon, which carries a prison sentence of up to six years in Argentina.
Lagomarsino said he was in Nisman’s apartment on two occasions the day before the prosecutor’s body was found. The last time he saw the official alive was when he went to take him the gun concealed under a towel.
When Lagomarsino tried to take the towel back, Nisman told him he would return the handgun and towel in about two weeks, “when everything is over.”
At 11am Sunday, Lagomarsino sent him a WhatsApp message: “You feel better today?” The prosecutor never answered.
Authorities believe that Nisman died sometime between Saturday night and early Sunday afternoon.
Lagomarsino was thrust in the media spotlight when President Fernández de Kirchner mentioned his name on three occasions in public statements, and referred to his close friendship with the prosecutor.
Viviana Fein, the prosecutor looking into Nisman’s death, said Wednesday that investigators have no evidence that Lagomarsino had anything to do with the incident other than providing the weapon.
Meanwhile, three of the bodyguards who accompanied Nisman were temporarily suspended from their jobs as the inquiry continues.