Ex-cult leader indicted in disappearance of leftist

Expatica/March 18, 2005

Santiago -- A Chilean judge on Thursday indicted former Nazi soldier Paul Schaefer, leader and founder of the "Colonia Dignidad" cult and commune, in the disappearance of a leftist from the community.

Judge Joaquin Billard handed down the indictment against Schaefer in the disappearance of Alvaro Vallejos, who was arrested during the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet and taken to Colonia Dignidad. After his arrest and transfer to the community in 1974, Vallejos was never seen again.

Billard made his decision after receiving a medical report indicating that German citizen Schaefer, 83, is in good health and fit to face trial.

Schaefer, who had been a fugitive since 1997, was arrested last week in Argentina and deported to Chile on Sunday.

The former nurse who served in the army of German dictator Adolf Hitler was arrested Thursday in a town near Buenos Aires where police found him in a wheelchair.

He is accused of multiple crimes, including the sexual abuse of minors, at Colonia Dignidad, which he founded in 1961 with other Germans. People who escaped from the commune have said it was a slave community from which its members were not allowed to leave. They said they were forced to work for no pay and suffered physical and psychological abuse.

Schaefer is also accused of collaborating with the Pinochet dictatorship to torture and kill more than 120 political prisoners. The commune was reportedly used as a torture and execution centre during the 1973-90 dictatorship.

Another judge, Jorge Zepeda, interrogated Schaefer on Thursday in the case of another leftist last seen alive at Colonia Dignidad in 1976.

And in coming days, yet another judge, Hernan Gonzalez, is to question him. Gonzalez has already indicted Schaefer on 26 counts of sexual abuse of minors.

Billard appointed attorney Maria Correa as Schaefer's defence lawyer after he refused two other attorneys who had been suggested.

Another case pending against Schaefer involves the disappearance of Russian-US citizen Boris Wesfeiler.

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