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South America - Chile

Newspaper claims Chilean dissidents killed at commune
by Eduardo Gallardo (AP, July 24, 2006)

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

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

The commune-like Dignity Colony was founded by German immigrants in southern Chile. Its leaders were accused of allowing Pinochet's security service to use it for the detention, torture and execution of dissidents. Leader Paul Schaefer, who founded the colony in the early 1960s, is serving a 20-year-old prison term on a conviction for sexually abusing 26 children at the enclave.

Gerhard Mucke, one of the former leaders of the colony, made the disclosures about the killings of dissidents to Jorge Zepeda, the judge investigating human rights abuses at the sprawling farm 210 miles south of Santiago, the newspaper said.

Mucke told the judge that Schaefer ordered him in 1978 "to clean the farm" removing the remains.

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

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

The colony was gradually dismantled after civilian rule was restored in Chile, but many of its members still live on the farm.

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

They blamed Schaefer, 84, 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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