An Argentine judge overseeing the investigation into the mysterious death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman on Tuesday declared herself “unfit'' to try the case, the state news agency Telam reported.
The move by lower court Judge Fabiana Palmaghini effectively pushes the case to federal court. Her decision comes a day after she heard testimony by the South American nation's most famous spymaster, Antonio Stiuso, about his relationship with Nisman — who died while investigating Argentina's worst terrorist attack.
Stiuso had assisted Nisman's investigation of the unsolved 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center before he was found shot dead in his apartment Jan. 18, 2015. Days before his death, Nisman accused then-President Cristina Fernandez of helping Iranian officials cover up Iran's alleged role in the bombing that killed 85 people. The case against Fernandez was later thrown out.
At the time, Fernandez suggested Nisman was killed by rogue intelligence agents, though she gave no evidence. She also said that Stiuso fed false information to Nisman and even had a hand in writing the late prosecutor's report detailing the accusations against her.
Judge’s reasons not disclosed
Palmaghini had previously said that there was not enough evidence to determine that the prosecutor was slain. She also had rejected a request to move the case to a federal court, prompting Nisman's family to appeal.
The details that caused her to change her mind have not been released. Telam only said on Tuesday that Palmaghini will send Nisman's file to federal courts in Buenos Aires where a new judge will be picked to handle the unsolved case that has rocked Argentina.
Stiuso oversaw a widespread wire-tapping operation before he was removed as head of Argentina's spy agency in December 2014.
The evidence shows that Nisman tried to contact Stiuso four times by telephone the day before he was found shot dead. But Stiuso said in a statement to a prosecutor last year that he never heard the calls and he fled Argentina complaining of threats on his life. He had failed to comply with a summons ordering him to testify until this week.
His closed-door testimony came just days after a top Argentine prosecutor told the country's criminal court of appeals that the case should be handled by a federal court and that he believes Nisman was killed and didn't take his own life, marking the first time that a judicial official has called Nisman's death a homicide.