Argentina intensifies effort to get ex-spy chief, blasts US

AP News
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Posted: Sep 30, 2015 8:43 PM
Argentina intensifies effort to get ex-spy chief, blasts US

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina on Wednesday intensified efforts to track down a former spy chief who reportedly has taken refuge in Miami, with top government officials saying they plan to summon the American ambassador and accusing U.S. authorities of stonewalling.

Cabinet chief Anibal Fernandez said that Argentina had received no response from eight requests sent to U.S. Justice Department officials seeking information about Antonio Stiuso, a former operations chief in the intelligence agency formally known as the Secretary of State Information.

"Is the United States willing to allow a degradation that would put at risk its relationship with Argentina for a man who, according to what everybody says, has no strategic importance to the United States?" Fernandez told reporters.

Oscar Parrilli, head of the Federal Intelligence Agency, said Argentina planned to summon the American ambassador to Buenos Aires, Noah Mamet, to explain "the absolute lack of response and in some ways complicity in this situation."

A U.S. Embassy spokesperson told The Associated Press that the mission would not comment on whether it had received requests for assistance in criminal matters, but "we can say that we respond to any such requests through established judicial channels."

Stiuso had assisted prosecutor Alberto Nisman in his investigation of the unsolved bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish community center in 1994 that killed 85. Nisman was found shot dead in his apartment in January, just days after accusing President Cristina Fernandez of orchestrating a cover-up of the alleged roles of several Iranians in the bombing, the country's worst terrorist attack.

Fernandez has strongly denied Nisman's accusations, and a federal judge threw out the case.

In speeches and in letters posted on social media, she has repeatedly suggested that Stiuso could be behind Nisman's death, but never provided details.

Nisman's death has not been solved. The lead investigator in the case has said she is still trying to determine whether Nisman was killed or committed suicide. Former aides and family reject the idea that he could have taken his own life.

The whereabouts of Stiuso, who reportedly oversaw a vast wiretapping operation until he was removed in December, are unclear.

For months, media reports have said he is in Miami. Stiuso's lawyer, Santiago Blanco Bermudez, told the AP on Wednesday that his client fled Argentina in fear of his safety, but that he didn't know where Stiuso is.

Blanco Bermudez said the accusations were baseless and the government was scapegoating Stiuso.

Stiuso has not been formally accused in Nisman's death, but has been called to testify and has not shown up.

Stiuso is facing charges for a range of other alleged crimes, from money laundering to helping derail the initial investigation into the Jewish center bombing.

What precipitated the renewed interest in Stiuso was unclear. Amid heavy campaigning ahead of presidential and congressional elections Oct. 25, for months the government had all but avoided talking about the investigation into Nisman's death or Stiuso's whereabouts.

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Associated Press writer Almudena Calatrava contributed to this report.