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The Alberto Nisman Award for Courage

  • Remarks by Robert Morgenthau, former New York County District Attorney
  • Introductory Remarks by Toby Dershowitz, Vice President for Government Relations and Strategy, Foundation for Defense of Democracies

FDD presented its inaugural Alberto Nisman Award for Courage to Robert M. Morgenthau, District Attorney for Manhattan from 1975 to 2009. As the second-longest serving D.A. in U.S. history, Morgenthau confronted organized crime, drug kingpins, terrorist networks, and rogue governments like Iran. In presenting the award, Toby Dershowitz, FDD’s Vice President for Government Relations and Strategy, said Morgenthau “relentlessly pursued criminals, terrorists, and those who enable them and has never been afraid to stand up for what is right.”

FDD established the Alberto Nisman Award for Courage this year to honor its namesake, the late Argentine prosecutor who investigated his government’s alleged cover-up of Iran’s role in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and wounded hundreds. Nisman was found dead in his apartment in January, one day before he was set to present his findings to Argentina’s Congress.

Presenting the award, Dershowitz noted that based on Nisman's work Interpol issued “red notices” for Iranian ex-officials over the attack. However she said, Nisman’s investigation went much further. He found that Iran had used emissaries across Latin America to facilitate the operation, and uncovered Argentine complicity in allowing Tehran to go unpunished. Nisman’s bravery, she said, ultimately cost him his life.

Morgenthau is the grandson of Henry Morgenthau, a United States ambassador to the Ottoman Empire during World War I. Henry alerted U.S. officials to widespread massacres of Armenians, but his dire warnings were ignored. Robert Morgenthau’s father, Henry Jr., was Secretary of the Treasury during World War II, and successfully pushed for the creation of the War Refugee Board – an executive agency credited with saving 200,000 Jews from their deaths. Robert Morgenthau, Dershowitz said, is a worthy heir to his family’s formidable legacy.

“There’s an old saying that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” Morgenthau said accepting the award, praising Nisman as a “forceful and independent prosecutor, following evidence wherever it led.”

Morgenthau lauded the late prosecutor for highlighting the threat Iran poses is to international security, and recalled that his own office had worked tirelessly to expose Iran’s global influence, including a failed 2007 plot on New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. “We traced money from the jungles of Paraguay to the dusty streets of Ramallah, and shared that information to interdict terrorist activities,” he said.

Morgenthau said Nisman had found that Argentina had indeed struck a “sordid deal” to cover up Iran’s involvement in the AMIA bombing. Applauding FDD for creating the award in Nisman’s memory, Morgenthan concluded, it is imperative “that Nisman’s work not be forgotten,” and that “we have the courage and fortitude to follow his campaign.”