More than four months after the unresolved death of a controversial prosecutor in Argentina, new questions have surfaced surrounding forensic investigators' handling of the scene of his death.
Prosecutor Alberto Nisman — who accused Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of covering up Iranian involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires that left dozens dead — died from a bullet to the head the night before he was set to present his case before Argentina's National Congress.
Argentine journalist Jorge Lanata on Sunday night presented footage recorded in Nisman's apartment in the hours following his unexpected passing on January 18, which the country has debated for months whether to call suicide or murder.
The video shows half a dozen people wandering around the investigation scene — which was never cordoned off — including the dead prosecutor's mother and Security Minister Sergio Berni, as investigators seemingly follow little or no protocol, suggesting evidence was critically tampered with or poorly preserved on the night of the prosecutor's death.
Investigators can be seen wiping the death weapon clean using toilet paper and gloved fingers. Nisman's mother appears on camera touching items throughout the apartment without the use of gloves or protective clothing, and several of those present can be seen repeatedly trampling through the puddle of blood left on the bathroom floor of the prosecutor's apartment.
After Nisman's death, authorities reported that the murder weapon was found to not have any fingerprints on it, not even those of his employee Diego Lagomarsino, who admitted to giving Nisman the weapon on the night of his death. This detail has been questioned for months, but it now seems the explanation could lie in the handling of the crime scene.
The prosecutor tasked with investigating Nisman's death, Viviana Fein, denied her team had cleaned the weapon before submitting it to evidence, as indicated by the newly released video.
"That isn't cleaning the weapon," Fein said during a radio interview on Monday. "It is an attempt to locate the serial number on the weapon, and its caliber, using an element which at that time happened to be toilet paper."
An investigator can also be seen emptying the gun of its bullets and resting the evidence on and inside the prosecutor's bidet, without changing his blood-soaked gloves.
Fein further defended her team's handling of the crime scene by discrediting the importance of this carelessness. "If there would have been prints, the blood washed them away, not the toilet paper," she said.
Although the unexplained presence of security minister Sergio Berni at the crime scene has been cause for speculation for months, he told reporters in January that he had not entered the bathroom where the prosecutor's corpse lay "and didn't let anyone else enter."
However, a bizarre exchange can be heard on the video, as Berni argues with Prosecutor Fein over her methodology, drawing her away from a note she is reading, and urging the prosecutor to enter the bathroom.
"[Nisman's] in there in agony or whatever, and we're here wasting time," Berni says inexplicably in the video, hours after the prosecutor's death.
In spite of the newly released video evidence, Fein maintains that her team acted with due care.
"The scene of the crime was not contaminated," Fein said on Monday, after video revealed that she too had walked through the puddle of blood in the bathroom. "If I hadn't entered the bathroom, they would have said I was unable to account for what was done in there."
The video has sparked a flurry of debate over the already unresolved questions that have surrounded the case since Nisman's death.
On Sunday, investigators revealed that the prosecutor's computer had been tampered with in the hours following his death, with several USB drives used and information deleted from his laptop prior to investigators arriving at the scene, a detail which could bring the official time of death into question, or open up the possibility of someone else having been present in the apartment on the night of his death.
Follow Andrea Noel on Twitter @MetabolizedJunk. Gaston Cavanagh contributed to this report.