Crime & Justice

Kin of man found dead in 2017 press Argentine high court for new probe

Buenos Aires, Oct 21 (EFE).- Human rights activists joined family and friends of a man who turned up dead in 2017 more than two months after an encounter with police for a protest here Thursday outside Argentina’s Supreme Court, which has yet to rule on a motion filed in March 2020 requesting a new investigation.

Santiago Maldonado, 28, was last seen alive on Aug. 1, 2017, while fleeing officers of the Gendarmeria border police who broke up a demonstration by indigenous Mapuche people near Esquel in the southern province of Chubut.

Maldonado’s body was discovered 78 days later floating on the Chubut River near the scene of the Mapuche protest.

Judge Gustavo Lleral closed the case in 2018, concluding that Maldonado drowned on his own and that the Gendarmes bore no responsibility for his death.

The following year, an appellate court ordered the investigation re-opened, even as it upheld Lleral’s finding that Maldonado was not a victim of forced disappearance.

And the appeals court left the case with Lleral, even though the judge was on the record as saying that he could not be impartial because he saw the re-opening of the probe as unnecessary.

The Maldonado family asked the Supreme Court to intervene and appoint a different judge to oversee the renewed investigation, yet more than 18 months later, the case “is paralyzed,” Santiago’s brother Sergio told Radio El Destape.

“After Judge Lleral has said publicly that he is not an impartial judge, it’s imperative and urgent that another judge moves forward with a genuine investigation,” Sergio Maldonado said on Twitter last Sunday, four years to the day after Santiago’s body was found “in the same place that had been searched at least three times.”

Sergio also noted that the medical examiner who carried out the autopsy “could not determine what day, how and where he died.”

The family also brought a criminal complaint against two Gendarmeria commanders and Pablo Noceti, who was serving in 2017 as chief of staff for then-Security Minister Patricia Bullrich, but authorities have declined to pursue that complaint, citing Lleral’s findings.

The fate of Santiago Maldonado 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. EFE


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