A federal appeals court in Buenos Aires has ordered the release of a woman who is among four people accused of involvement in the attempted murder of Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
The former president, 69, survived an assassination attempt on September 1 as she mingled with supporters outside her home in Buenos Aires when a gun brandished by a man in the crowd failed to fire.
The alleged assailant, Fernando Andrés Sabag Montiel, 35, was arrested at the scene and his girlfriend Brenda Uliarte, 23, was taken into custody three days later. Both have been charged with "attempted aggravated homicide."
Gabriel Carrizo, 27, the alleged leader of a gang known as "los copitos," and Agustina Díaz, 21, were arrested later and charged with complicity in the attack.
However, an appeals court in Buenos Aires has now ordered Díaz's release due to a lack of evidence to indict her, according to a court ruling seen by local outlets. In it, they argue that there is no evidence to prosecute the 21-year-old as either a secondary participant or accessary to the crime.
The same court ordered that Carrizo be remanded in custody under pre-trial detention after it “partially confirmed” the charges against him. The judges also called on Federal Judge María Eugenia Capuchetti to partially elevate the investigation to trial stage.
"With the urgency that the case requires, these proceedings with respect to the accused whose procedural situations have been resolved should be elevated to the stage of oral and public debate,” reads the ruling.
According to reports, Carrizo could yet benefit from house arrest should he accept monitoring with an electronic ankle bracelet.
The court also called on Judge Capuchetti to “further investigate” other possible hypotheses such as “the actions of the security agencies and personnel who were in charge of the custody and security of Cristina Fernández.”
Key WhatsApp messages
Investigators have uncovered numerous WhatsApp conversations between Díaz and Uliarte, who had entered the former’s number in her phone as “the love of my life.” But most of the messages were exchanged after the attack, and the court found the communications did not constitute proof of her involvement in the planning.
"With the elements collected so far, no additional display of conduct has been evidenced in Díaz – we repeat, for the moment – that would allow us to assign legal-criminal relevance to her conduct," ruled Judges Mariano Lloren, Pablo Bertuzzi and Leopoldo Bruglia.
"While it cannot be ruled out that Díaz had some knowledge of the plan, nor can it be assumed that by that circumstance alone and the statements made to Uliarte – where no contribution to the charge is seen – secondary complicity is configured," ruled the three judges.
By contrast, the investigation has uncovered evidence that Carrizo “stated that he had knowledge of the plan of his partners in crime” said the judges, a fact that was “reinforced” by other messages “sent after the fact, in which he claims to have delivered a weapon for in the days prior” to the assassination attempt.
After the failed attack, Díaz advised Uliarte to delete all the information on her mobile phone and messages exchanged with those who knew prior to the assassination attempt that she had acquired a gun.