14 Jul 2008

Commune head sentenced for child torture

Sydney Morning Herald - July 12, 2008


Paul Schaefer, the founder of the notorious former German religious commune Colonia Dignidad in Chile, has been sentenced to three years and a day in prison for torturing children.

The sentencing is the latest in a series of cases that have condemned Schaefer to at least 30 years in Jail in 25 cases of sexual abuse of minors and violations of legislation over the possession of firearms.

The victims in the current case were eight children who were given psychotropic medication and electroshock therapy from 1970 to 1980 in the settlement hospital, the court said in Santiago.

Moreover, the children were separated from their parents and prevented from developing a normal sexuality through the use of physical violence, the court added.

A former corporal in Adolf Hitler's army, Schaefer started the commune in southeastern Chile with other German emigrants. While preaching rigid morality, he sexually abused children and teenagers at the sealed-off complex, authorities have said.

Schaefer, 86, also faces charges of human rights abuses.

Prosecutors allege that the dreaded secret police of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who ruled from 1973 to 1990, killed and tortured political opponents at Colonia Dignidad and that Schaefer took part.

In the 1950s, Schaefer was under investigation by German authorities over an alleged sexual abuse of German minors. In the early 1960s he convinced hundreds of Germans to emigrate to Chile, founding his commune near Parral in southern Chile.

Hundreds of people lived there, in complete isolation from the outside world and unallowed to leave the commune.

In Colonia Dignidad, children were taken from their parents.

Marriages and relationships between the settlers were forbidden, and many former residents have only recently dared to speak of their experience.

In addition to electric fencing and camera surveillance, the commune procured weapons to protect their compound. Schaefer disappeared in 1997 as investigations began, but was arrested in Argentina in 2005 and extradited to Chile.

The settlement lost its legal status and tax-free privileges after Pinochet fell, and renamed itself "Villa Baviera."

This article was found at:

http://news.smh.com.au/world/commune-head-sentenced-for-child-torture-20080712-3dx1.html

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