SANTIAGO – The former head of a secretive German colony in southern Chile was flown to Santiago early Sunday after his arrest in Argentina.
Paul Schaefer, who founded the commune-like enclave in 1961, is wanted in connection with the disappearance of a dissident under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet ruled from 1973-90.
Schaefer, 83, also faces charges of sexually abusing children at the colony, Colonia Dignidad, 400 kilometers, or 245 miles, south of Santiago. He was arrested Thursday near the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires.
The Chilean interior minister, Jose Miguel Insulza, thanked the Argentine government for expelling Schaefer from its territory, avoiding a lengthy extradition process.
Schaefer was flown from Buenos Aires in a jet provided by the Chilean government. He was taken by ambulance to an undisclosed police station pending his appearance before a judge Monday.
The colony leaders were repeatedly accused of cooperating with Pinochet’s security services, and allowing its facilities to be used as a center for detention, torture and even execution.
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The German leaders of the colony denied the accusations, calling them part of a communist-inspired smear campaign. The colony was self-supporting, with its own hospital, school and farm.
Almost from the beginning, Schaefer and his aides were accused of keeping more than 300 German and Chilean residents against their will. Several former members who fled the enclave said that married couples were forced to live in separate quarters and away from their children, according to court papers.
The colony has been stripped of its status as charitable organization and is under new leadership.
A spokesman for the colony, Michael Muller, praised the arrest of Schaefer, saying, “The time for justice has come.”
“Our colony has reoriented its life, reorganized itself as an open, free colony, fully integrated to Chilean society,” Muller said.