Mar. 10, 2005 – Fugitive religious sect leader and German citizen Paul Schaefer, one of Chile’s most wanted men who has been convicted here of sexually abusing 26 children, was arrested in Argentina on Thursday.
A Chilean judge has also accused Schaefer, who is believed to be 81 years old and has been on the run for eight years, of helping the secret police kidnap a political prisoner during Chile’s 1973-90 military dictatorship.
Up until very recently Schaefer’s followers defended him as a God-like guru despite his growing legal problems.
But seven years after he disappeared, his spell over his followers began to fall apart and last year members of the once secretive cult broke a four-decade silence and spoke with Reuters to denounce widespread physical abuse inside the sect.
“We are happy. Wonderful, wonderful,” said a resident of Colonia Dignidad, now called Villa Baviera, who answered the colony’s only phone line and spoke in broken Spanish with a strong German accent. She declined to give her name.
CULT ACCUSED OF HELPING SECRET POLICE
A Chilean court charged Schaefer in 1996 with the sexual abuse of more than two dozen Chilean children who went to the free school and clinic at Colonia Dignidad. He disappeared in 1997.
Late last year a Chilean judge convicted and sentenced him in absentia on the sex abuse charges. Defense attorneys for cult members convicted of covering up Schaefer’s crimes have appealed their sentences.
“I feel lots of expectation that we will be able to continue the case of violence and sexual abuse against children,” Delia del Gatto, director of the National Children’s Service, Chile’s child protection agency, told local television.
She said courts cannot make a final ruling confirming the conviction and sentencing of Schaefer until he is present.