Colonia Dignidad cult suspects arrested in Chile

BBC News/May 24, 2011

Police in Chile have arrested two suspected members of the secretive sect, Colonia Dignidad.

Rebeca Schaefer and Peter Schmidt are accused of kidnapping, manslaughter and membership of an illicit organisation.

They handed themselves in after a judge ordered their arrest on Monday along with five others.

The judge issued a warrant for the arrest of Hartmut Hopp, the deputy leader of Colonia Dignidad who is thought to have fled to Germany.

Ms Schaefer is the adopted daughter of the former cult leader and Nazi sympathiser, Paul Schaefer, who died in prison in April 2010.

He was serving a 20-year term for sexually abusing children at Colonia Dignidad.

The Baptist preacher founded the commune in 1961 in a remote area about 390km (245 miles) south of the capital Santiago.

House arrest

Ms Schaefer and her husband Peter Schmidt were detained after travelling to a police station together.

The justice ministry told the BBC that Chile had filed an international warrant via Interpol for the arrest of Hartmut Hopp.

Paul Schaefer Paul Schaefer, a former Nazi, established the colony in 1961

Hopp, 66, disappeared last Friday while on bail awaiting trial.

"We are aware of press reports that he may have fled to his native Germany," justice ministry spokesman, Hector Cruzac, said.

The Chilean authorities are currently investigating how the German national managed to flee from house arrest.

Hopp, who is a medical doctor by profession, was convicted by a court last year of child sex abuse.

However, the authorities had not yet jailed him as they wanted to put him on trial on additional charges, including membership of a banned organisation.

The fugitive's daughter-in-law, Baerbel Schreiber, told a Chilean investigative website that he had arrived in Germany several days ago and was still there.

Colonia Dignidad served as a torture centre during the military rule of Gen Augusto Pinochet.

The colony was taken over by the Chilean government in 2005.

A subsequent investigation showed how it operated as a state within a state, with children forced to live separately from their parents.

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