BERLIN – A German court on Tuesday sentenced a doctor who fled Chile to five years in prison for involvement in child sex abuse at a commune called Colonia Dignidad.
The Krefeld court upheld a Chilean prison sentence for Hartmut Hopp, a German citizen in his seventies.
Hopp worked with Paul Schäfer, a former Nazi soldier who founded the commune in southern Chile in 1961. Residents were indoctrinated and kept as virtual slaves for more than 30 years.
Schaefer was sentenced to 20 years in prison and passed away in prison four years later at the age of 88.
Hopp’s lawyer says he will appeal against the sentence.
Schäfer also collaborated with the government of former dictator Augusto Pinochet whose secret police used the colony around 350km (215 miles) south of the capital, Santiago, as a place of torture and to “disappear” his opponents.
Germany last year said it would declassify its files on the sect, and the foreign minister at the time, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, admitted that the diplomatic service had failed to stop the abuses.
The scale of the abuses only came to light after Schäfer faced a series of lawsuits in 1997.
He fled Chile and was arrested in Argentina in 2005. He was convicted in Chile of sexual abuse of children, weapons possession and human rights violations.
He died in a Chilean jail in 2010 at the age of 88.
The Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) has welcomed the decision, applauding what it termed the ‘delayed failure’ against Hopp.
According to ECCHR, ‘the German justice had finally offered the minimal amount of expected support in processing the crimes committed at Colonia Dignidad enclave, especially the rape and sexual abuse of minors.’
The judges emphasized that the decisions made by Chilean courts fulfill Germany´s constitutional principals.
However, the court ruling has not yet entered into force, which increases – according to experts in the case – the danger of Hopp to flee to Germany.
Meanwhile, Wolfgang Kaleck, ECCHR’s Secretary-General, demanded that Krefeld court to continue to the investigation process over Hartmut Hopp.
According to Kaleck, this is a series of crimes committed by Colonia Dignidad’ regime and its role as contact with DINA intelligence service during Pinoche’s military dictatorship.