Autopsy of protester shows he drowned, rules out foul play

FILE - In this Sept. 1, 2017 file photo, demonstrators hold up posters of missing activist Santiago Maldonado, during a protest at Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Authorities in an Argentina said Friday, Nov. 24, 2017 the activist who was found dead in a river after he went missing during a protest drowned and are ruling out foul play. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko, File)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Argentine authorities said Friday that an activist, whose disappearance during a protest prompted nationwide protests, drowned and are ruling out foul play.

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Argentina after Santiago Maldonado went missing in August. Soccer players, celebrities and politicians from opposing political parties had also joined rights activists in a social media campaign demanding the government find the artisan and tattoo artist alive.

Maldonado's family has said that border police killed him. But the forensic medical board said Friday that Maldonado died from "asphyxia after being submerged" along with hypothermia. The 28-member board said that Madonado's body spent 73 days in the water that there is no evidence of body injuries.

His body was found Oct. 17 in a river in southern Chubut province near the location of a protest on Aug. 1, the day he was last seen. Protesters were demanding the release of a jailed Mapuche indigenous leader and the return of lands belonging to Italian clothing company Benetton that are claimed by the Mapuche as their ancestral territory.

Witnesses said they saw police beat and detain Maldonado after he and others blocked a road in Chubut province, about 1,100 miles (1,800 kilometres) southwest of the Argentine capital.

Police never confirmed the arrest and denied wrongdoing.

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