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Argentina’s president seeks to clarify his remarks about prosecutors

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Aug 26, 2022 - 07:16 AM

LONDON (AA) – Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez insisted Thursday that his government does not threaten or persecute prosecutors as he sought to clarify his remarks in an ongoing case against the country’s vice president.

Fernandez’s comments came in the wake of an interview he gave to the Todo Noticias TV channel in which he drew comparisons between prosecutors Alberto Nisman and Diego Luciani.

Nisman died from a gunshot wound in January 2015, the day before he was scheduled to present what he claimed was evidence against then-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner that she had conspired with Iran to cover up its alleged role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.

Diego Luciani is one of the prosecutors in the trial involving the Vialidad case, in which Kirchner, who is currently the country’s vice president, is the main defendant.

During his interview with Todo Noticias, Fernandez was asked to comment on a request by the Supreme Court to increase security for prosecutors and judges in light of what happened to Nisman.

He replied that it was ridiculous to suggest that Luciani could share the same fate as Nisman, noting Nisman committed suicide, and “nothing else has been proven until now.”

He added that he hoped “Luciani doesn’t do something like that.”

On Thursday in an interview with El Destape radio, Fernandez sought to clarify his comments.

“I’m guided by what the judiciary says, which until now says that he committed suicide. The media distorted what I said. This does not have anything to do with Nisman. I do not fear that something similar will happen (to Luciani),” he said.

Fernandez also called on Luciani to be calm as “he has never received a call from the national government. Nobody ever went to visit him in my name, no spy went to visit him, which is why he should not be fearful.”

He added that while he remains in charge, his administration will not become involved in judicial matters, insisting that “no judge, no prosecutor should fear for his integrity.”

Fernandez himself said he had received threats following his support for Kirchner as federal police investigate the matter.

On Monday, Luciani accused Kirchner, 69, of awarding fraudulent and overpriced public works contracts in the southern province of Santa Cruz during her two-term tenure as president from 2007-2015.

Many of the contracts allegedly benefitted close allies to the Kirchner family, with some already convicted of corruption.

Luciani also called for a “special life disqualification” from public office for Kirchner, who as vice president and president of the Senate has political immunity.

Fernandez also pushed back against the Kirchner accusations, arguing that “since 2015, a persecution scheme against Cristina has been set up.”

On Thursday, Luciani hit back at Fernandez’s remarks in an interview with the La Nación daily.

Luciani alleged that there was a “serious abuse of institutions by the president of the nation or the minister of security, who should be the first to practice republican values,” describing it as “worrying,” while they should not forget “they represent the entire citizenry.”

On Tuesday, Kirchner — who remains a divisive figure in Argentina’s political landscape, adored by her supporters and loathed by her detractors — vehemently denied the accusations against her and hit out at Argentina’s judiciary.

On Wednesday, the presidents of Colombia, Bolivia and Mexico signed a press release decrying what they called the “unjustifiable judicial persecution” against Kirchner.

The sentence against Kirchner is expected to be known in months, although some say she could appeal to the higher courts, which would likely considerably extend the time it takes to reach a final verdict.

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