German court rules Chile sect doctor should be jailed

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 16, 2017 8:34 AM

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German court has ruled that a doctor who was part of a secretive sect set up by an ex-Nazi from Germany in a remote part of Chile should go to prison for aiding and abetting the sexual abuse that took place.

The decision upholds a sentence already handed down in Chile.

Hartmut Hopp, believed to be 73, was a doctor at Colonia Dignidad, founded in 1961 by former World War II German army medic Paul Schaefer in the foothills of the Andes.

In 2011, Hopp was sentenced in Chile to a five-year jail term for aiding and abetting the rape and sexual abuse of minors between 1993 and 1997. He fled from the country and arrived in Krefeld in northern Germany.

The Krefeld regional court ruled on Monday that the sentence from Chile was permissible and enforceable in Germany.

"The court has converted the foreign punishment into a prison term of five years and one day," it said.

Hopp's lawyer told Reuters he was appealing against the ruling but declined to give further details.

Hopp has been accused of turning a blind eye to what was going on in the sect led by Schaefer, who became an evangelical preacher with 300 followers.

Eventually, he was arrested in Argentina and sentenced to prison in 2006. He died in a Santiago jail in 2010 aged 88 and never publicly acknowledged his crimes.

Some former cult members issued a public apology in 2006 and sought forgiveness for 40 years of human rights abuses. They said they had been brainwashed by Schaefer.

Victims, about 100 of whom returned to their roots in Germany in the area north of Duesseldorf, have long sought justice and have described how the isolated community operated under Schaefer.

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Lawyers for some of the victims say that dozens of Germans were enslaved for decades and abused, subjected to electric shocks and doping to keep them obedient.

Last month, Germany and Chile agreed to create a commission to document crimes committed at Colonia Dignidad.

"The decision shows that the political and social pressure in the last few years has had an effect. Hartmut Hopp must finally be brought to justice," said Social Democrat lawmaker Christian Flisek.

He said that the ruling would help victims of Colonia Dignidad to work through the psychological effects of the shocking crimes they had been subjected to.

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Andrew Bolton)