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Weisfeiler's body may be found when
investigators excavate Colonia Dignidad
FOR BODIES TO BEGIN AT CHILE’S COLONIA DIGNIDAD
Prisoners “Disappeared” By Pinochet’s Military Regime May Finally Be
(Oct. 12, 2005) Judicial officials expect to begin
excavation this week for the bodies of political prisoners thought
to have been killed at the Colonia Dignidad compound during the
17-year Pinochet’s military dictatorship. This latest chapter in the
Colonia Dignidad saga follows the arrest of former colony leader
Paul Schäfer in March and the discovery of an illegal weapons cache
Jorge Zepeda, the judge investigating the case,
will be coordinating the excavations from the nearby city of Parral,
where Chile’s Legal Medical Service and investigative experts have
set up a temporary base to process the forensic evidence police
expect to find.
Colonia Dignidad was right-wing religious
compound founded by German immigrants in 1961 near Parral in
southern Chile. Its leaders are suspected of collaborating with
former dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet and Chile’s secret police
force, the Directorate of National Intelligence (DINA), during the
military regime’s 17-year rule.
Investigators have pinpointed
three locations within the Colony’s compound where human bones,
jewelry, shoes, and other personal belongings of political prisoners
are suspected to be buried. The information came from the testimony
of Efraín Vedder, a member of the Colony who escaped from the
compound in December 2002.
The three sites are located in an
area that was dug up by members of Colonia Dignidad in the late
1970s on the pretext of removing televisions previously buried
underground. Vedder claims that the remains are located
approximately five meters below ground.
excavations, police investigators discovered two large weapons
caches buried on the property, the largest illegal arsenal ever
uncovered in Chile. Police also discovered an underground bunker
filled with over 30,000 archives of intelligence profiles created by
the Chilean secret police (ST, June 20). Further excavations had
been delayed until now by rainy winter weather in the south of
Other testimony provided by former colony members, as
well as information from the archives discovered in the underground
bunker, have allowed government officials to estimate that at least
30 people were executed and buried inside the compound.
Families of victims who disappeared in Colonia Dignidad hope
that the upcoming excavations will shed light on the fate of their
loved ones. Many expect that officials will find the body of Juan
Maino, a left-wing political activist who was detained by the DINA
in 1976 and was last seen alive at Colonia Dignidad.
high-profile disappearance linked to the Colony is U.S. citizen
Boris Weisfeiler. Weisfeiler was a Russian-born mathematics
professor who disappeared in January 1985 while camping in southern
Chile near Colonia Dignidad. Pinochet-era investigations concluded
that he drowned in a river.
But according to documents
declassified by the U.S. State Department in June 2000, Weisfeiler
was picked up by a military patrol and taken to the compound. Two
years later, in 1987, an informant reported to the U.S. embassy in
Santiago that Weisfeiler was still alive but was being tortured and
held in animal-like conditions inside the compound.
1990 restoration of democracy in Chile, the Colony lost its special
charitable status and investigations into the Colony’s connection to
human rights abuses during the military regime began.
Schäfer, leader and administrator of the Colony for over 40 years,
was recently detained on an international arrest warrant in
Argentina after an eight-year man hunt (ST, March 11). Schäfer is
currently in police custody on charges of serial child molestation
at the compound (ST, Oct. 5). Further criminal charges could result
from discoveries made by investigators in the upcoming excavations.
After Schäfer fled Chile, the colony was operated by other
colony leaders until the top lieutenants, including hospital
director Dr. Harmut Hopp were arrested in May. The Chilean
government officially took control of the compound in August (ST,
Chilean officials recently appointed Herman
Schwember as the new administrator of the former Colonia Dignidad
property. Schwember is a Chilean citizen of German descent who is
leading the effort to reintegrate the 300 members of the former
colony into Chilean society. Many of the former colony members speak
only German and have psychological problems related to the extreme
isolation maintained on the property.
When asked how he
would act if requested to report members of the colony who may have
taken part in human rights violations, Schwember said, “I have a
legal obligation to report crimes, if I did not, it would make me an
accomplice to them.”
SOURCES: LA NACIÓN, EL MERCURIO, DIARIO
By Nathan Gill (firstname.lastname@example.org)