BUENOS AIRES – Drowning was the cause of death of an activist who disappeared after taking part in a protest broken up by police, an Argentine federal judge said on Friday after reviewing the autopsy.
A panel of 28 pathologists and other experts concluded unanimously that the body of Santiago Maldonado did not leave the water at any point between his death and when he was found on Oct. 17, Judge Gustavo Lleral told reporters.
Maldonado, 28, was last seen alive on Aug. 1, when he was fleeing officers of the Gendarmeria border police who broke up a demonstration by Mapuche Indians near Esquel in the southern province of Chubut.
More than two months later, his body was discovered floating on the Chubut River near the scene of the Mapuche protest.
The activist’s family has been joined by human rights organizations in blaming the death on the Gendarmeria. During the search, thousands of people turned out for rallies across Argentina to demand Maldonado’s safe return.
With the autopsy done, the next step will be trying to reconstruct the events leading up to Maldonado’s death, the judge said Friday.
“I said since I began the investigation that we would have to be patient and we must be even more so from now on,” Lleral said.
The Maldonado case has evoked parallels with the 1976-1983 military regime, which “disappeared” some 30,000 people in the course of a systematic effort to wipe out the Argentine left.