Español He perhaps knows more than anyone about the biggest terrorist attack in Argentina’s history. Gabriel Levinas led a Delegation of Argentinean Jewish Associations (DAIA) investigation into the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires that left 85 dead and hundreds wounded.
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Many of his findings were published in his book Law Under the Rubble (1998), a gripping study of the evidence and speculation surrounding the case, later reissued in 2014. Since 2011, Levinas has served as director of news analysis portal plazademayo.com, and regularly featured on the radio show of renowned journalist Jorge Lanata.
Yet in conversation with the PanAm Post, Levinas plays down his contribution to the 20-year search for justice. “If I see that something is wrong, all I can do is say something, so that lawyers or whoever the hell the prosecutors are asking the judicial system to do whatever needs to be done,” he states bluntly.
He denies being “clever enough” to have uncovered every lead in the AMIA case, but is certain of one thing: “There was a huge amount of concealment. There’s no explanation as to how Iran came in from the outside, placed a bomb and left. Nobody conceals someone who is unknown, or with whom one doesn’t have any kind of preexisting relationship,” Levinas argues.
For the journalist-turned-investigator, Iran may have provided the orders, financing, and skilled accomplices, but the bombing was pulled off thanks to “a huge local connection.”
Levinas shared his thoughts with the PanAm Post about the inefficiency of the Argentinean judicial process, the mysteries of the AMIA case, and the web of political interests that he claims lie behind the sudden death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman one month ago.
What was Nisman’s line of research in the AMIA bombing case?
Nisman believed that Iran could be blamed without necessarily solving the problem at hand. Imagine you have a dead body in the street with a wound. You have to determine whether the hole is a gunshot or knife wound; if it was a gun, whether if it was a .38 or a .45 caliber, so you know who to look for. If you go around the block and find three people, one with a .45, one with a .38, and another with a knife, who do you arrest?
Let’s do this the other way around. Al Capone gives the order to kill a man, and you have a recording of the conversation. But if you don’t know the exact circumstances of the death, Al Capone can say: “Sure, I gave the order, but someone else beat me to it. It wasn’t me.” So the guy walks free.
You need to know exactly what happened, and from there you can work out whether it was Iran, China, whoever. But you can’t get anywhere if you don’t solve what happened. And Nisman never solved exactly what happened.
So Nisman’s allegations didn’t have any foundation?
No, those are two different things. He filed a complaint that has nothing to do with the AMIA case itself, but about the cover-up of Iran’s role in the bombing by the Argentinean executive and some other characters.
What he discovered was important enough to merit a judicial complaint. It could have ended in nothing, or it could have ended with the president in jail. We don’t know how it would have ended, but he definitely had enough grounds for suspicion.
This attack on Nisman is a false one, when people claim that he had no firm evidence. The reality is that no evidence is needed to make a judicial complaint. Evidence is needed for a conviction.
Why would President Cristina Kirchner and other officials cover up for Iran?
Argentina was the country that in 2006, at the United Nations, denounced Iran and called for action against it. The strategy worked well, and Argentina was made a non-permanent member of the Security Council.
At that time, Nisman’s orders were consistent with what the government wanted to do, which was to blame Iran with the evidence they had at the time, which wasn’t much.
All Nisman did all those years was to follow the orders of successive governments, first as one prosecutor in the case, and then as the prosecutor in charge of a special agency. Meanwhile, [Argentinean intelligence operative] Antonio Stiuso was [former President] Nestor Kirchner’s trusted agent, helping Nisman with the investigation.
When a year and a half ago Argentina’s foreign policy changed, with the approval of the memorandum of understanding with Iran, they wanted to change position.
Why the about-face? Because [the administration] broke with the United States and began to align with Iran. That’s a fact, regardless of other links and connections that can be speculated.
Have you ever been threatened?
[After a pause] No. People in the DAIA suggested that I shouldn’t take this road or that. They also once tried to prosecute me in court. But threats as in “we will kill you,” not at all.
A woman who worked with me did receive threats, but these didn’t get to me. To me, you either kill me or not, there’s no middle ground. Now they’re warning me again that I must be careful.
What happened to Nisman?
Nisman was murdered. On top of this, the same procedure as with the AMIA attack was repeated: the police come and ruin the crime scene, so you can’t ever get at the truth.
There’s no way we can believe them. Because if they’d done things properly, according to procedure, that procession of unauthorized people inside the apartment would never have taken place, and we would have known immediately what happened.
No one can explain what happened in the 12 hours in between Nisman’s death and when he was found, when no one heard from him. It makes no sense, because everyone knows that the intelligence services, plus a few other trained people, can enter a house 20 times without being noticed. They place a microphone and leave. My house may be bugged, and I wouldn’t know about it. That’s their job, and they know how to do it.
There’s no security system that can’t be violated. They can always be violated. I think a lot happened in Nisman’s apartment that we’ll never fully know about.
This is all part of an ever-expanding bomb that went off 21 years ago. The corruption, the cover-up, the various state security services involved…
Translated by Rebeca Morla. Edited by Laurie Blair.