Chile colony leaders face charges

A Chilean judge has indicted 18 people linked to a former German colony in southern Chile over human rights abuses committed during military rule.

Among them are two former commanders of the Chilean secret police, as well as Paul Schaefer, the colony’s founder.

The judge says the security services used the sprawling property to hide kidnapped dissidents.

Last year, the state took control of the enclave. Mr Schaefer is in jail facing separate child abuse charges.

In January, Judge Jorge Zepeda inspected a suspected mass grave at the enclave, known as Colonia Dignidad.

It is thought dozens of bodies were buried there but later moved.

The judge accused the colony’s former leaders of allowing the security services to use their 13,000-hectare (32,000-acre) farm.

His indictment said “members of the colony armed themselves and developed a precise system of co-operation with the security services of the military regime,” the Associated Press reported.

It said this allowed the secret service to kidnap civilians who were taken to the colony and kept there.

‘Close ties’

Among those accused are retired generals Manuel Contreras and Pedro Espinoza, commanders of the secret police, Dina, during General Augusto Pinochet’s 1973-1990 military dictatorship.

Both are currently serving prison sentences in connection with other human rights cases.

Paul Schaefer, a former Nazi and Baptist preacher, established the colony in 1961, after fleeing Germany to escape child abuse charges.

Most of the commune’s residents are believed to have been held there against their will.

A Chilean congressional report has said that Colonia Dignidad operated as a “state within a state” during General Pinochet’s regime, thanks to Mr Schaefer’s close ties to the country’s ruling elite.

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Apr. 11, 2006

Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday April 13, 2006.
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