Report: Missing Pinochet-Era Dissidents Were Killed at Secretive German Colony

Associated Press/July 23, 2006
By Eduardo Gallardo

Santiago, Chile -- At least 22 dissidents who disappeared under the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet were killed at a secretive German commune and their bodies later burned with chemicals, the government-owned La Nacion newspaper reported Sunday.

The killings occurred during the two months after the Sep. 11, 1973 military coup in which Pinochet toppled elected Marxist President Salvador Allende, the paper said. Pinochet ruled until 1990.

The disclosure was made by Gerhard Mucke, one of the former leaders of Colonia Dignidad or Dignity Colony to Jorge Zepeda, the judge investigating human rights abuses at the sprawling farm 340 kilometers (210 miles) south of Santiago, the newspaper said.

There was no comment from the government on the report, and a call to Zepeda's office on Sunday was not answered.

Mucke told the judge that the reclusive religious sect's top leader, Paul Schaefer, ordered him in 1978 "to clean the farm" removing the remains.

"All the bodies were burned," Mucke said of the 22 dissidents, according to the paper.

Schaefer, who founded the commune in the early 1960s, is currently serving a 20-year prison term after being convicted of sexually abusing 26 children at the enclave.

Schaefer and other colony leaders were for years accused of allowing Pinochet's security service to use it for the detention, torture and execution of dissidents.

The colony was gradually dismantled after civilian rule was restored, but many of its members still live on the farm, now incorporated into Chile's society.

Earlier this year, the remaining members of the colony, Chileans and Germans, acknowledged in a public statement abuses occurred there during the Pinochet regime.

"We realize that serious crimes were committed," they said. "We want now to work so we can be pardoned and reinserted" in society.

They blamed Schaefer, 84, for the abuses, saying "he allowed our villa to be used for the detention and repression of people persecuted" by the Pinochet regime.

According to an official report, 3,197 people were killed for political reasons under Pinochet, and more than 1,000 are still missing.

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