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Sunday, January 24, 1999 Published at 07:03 GMT

World: Americas

Chile hunts Pinochet torture evidence

Anti-Pinochet protesters stage a demonstration in Santiago

Police in Chile have raided a secretive German community in the search for evidence that opponents of the military regime of General Augusto Pinochet were tortured, killed and buried there.

Police said they were acting on the orders of judge Juan Guzman, who is handling several lawsuits filed against General Pinochet by relatives of people who disappeared during his rule between 1973 and 1980.

The pinochet File
Human rights groups say the community - known as "Colonia Dignidad" - was used as a torture centre under military rule.

A team of at least 40 police officers and investigators checked buildings and the cemetery grounds, searching for gravesites that could contain the remains of Pinochet opponents.

Dignidad, some 350km (217 miles) south of Santiago, was established by German refugees in 1961, and has been the focus of accusations of mass child abuse.

Community leader, Paul Schaefer, 77, has been sought by Chilean police since 1996 on sex and tax evasion charges.

Fugitive leader

Police occupied the community for more than a month last year in a fruitless search for him.

The sprawling enclave, which stretches over 15,000 hectares in the Andean foothills, is home to 350 to 400 Germans and their second and third-generation offspring.

General Pinochet is under house arrest in England while he fights extradition to Spain on charges of genocide, murder and torture.

The Chilean Government says he should be returned to face justice at home, but human rights groups say it is highly unlikely that he would be brought to trial.

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