Chilean Court Approves Extradition Request for Former Sect Leader

Santiago, Chile - The Supreme Court has authorized a judge’s request to seek the extradition of a doctor who fled to Germany in 2011 after being convicted as an accomplice in the sexual abuse of minors in the 1990s when he was a leader of Colonia Dignidad, a German sect in southern Chile, the court announced Monday.

The doctor, Harmut Hopp, 69, has been living in Krefeld, a small city in North Rhine-Westphalia. In January, Chile’s Supreme Court confirmed the five-year sentence against him on charges that he was an accomplice to the sect’s leader, Paul Schäfer, in the rape of 4 boys and the sexual abuse of 16 others.

Mr. Schäfer founded the self-sufficient religious sect near Parral, 200 miles south of the capital, Santiago, in 1961 after fleeing West Germany, where he faced charges of sexually abusing boys. Colonia Dignidad also served as a clandestine torture center during the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, according to official human rights reports. Mr. Schäfer died in prison in 2010 while serving a 20-year sentence for the sexual abuse of 25 minors.

Dr. Hopp was part of Mr. Schäfer’s inner circle and the director of Colonia Dignidad’s hospital, which served the local population. It was there, according to multiple testimonies and court records, that Colonia members were tortured and forcibly drugged with psychotropics. Some local children from rural areas who had been taken to the hospital for treatment never returned to their families.

One such boy, Efraín Morales, was abducted by Colonia Dignidad in 1967 after his mother took him to the hospital when he was 2 months old. The hospital refused to give the baby back to the family, and the Germans adopted him illegally, changing his last name to Vedder. When Efrain was 8, he said, Mr. Schäfer began raping him; around that time, the boy started questioning the sect’s strict discipline and asking about his birthparents.

“That’s when they started giving me pills in the hospital,” Mr. Vedder said. “When they realized I was throwing them away, they began injecting me once a week. When that wasn’t enough, they would make me stay at the hospital for weeks. I was given pills and shots until I fell unconscious, and they applied electroshock. This lasted 23 years.”

Mr. Vedder escaped Colonia in 2002 and now lives in Santiago.

The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights has filed several lawsuits against Dr. Hopp in a Krefeld court on behalf of former Colonia members who now live in Germany and accuse Dr. Hopp of causing them serious physical harm through forced drugging.

One of the lawsuits is based on the disappearance of Elizabeth Rekas, who was four months pregnant when she was abducted in 1976 and presumably taken to Colonia Dignidad, where she disappeared. Dr. Hopp was being investigated for this crime at the time he escaped Chile.

In February 2012, Dr. Hopp testified before a court in Krefeld.

In the ruling made public Monday, the Supreme Court recommended that if Germany continues to refuse to extradite Dr. Hopp, Chilean officials ask that he serve his sentence in a German prison.