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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 June, 2005, 05:44 GMT 06:44 UK
Arsenal found in Chilean commune
Paul Schaefer
The government hopes the find will strengthen its case against Mr Schaefer
A huge weapons cache has been found in a secretive religious commune in Chile founded by a German citizen accused of aiding the former dictatorship.

The arsenal, including automatic weapons and rocket launchers, was found during an investigation into cult leader Paul Schaefer, 83.

He is accused of aiding secret police under Chile's 1973-1990 military rule and sexually abusing 26 children.

Mr Schaefer was arrested in March after eight years on the run.

"What's been discovered so far is of a dimension that can only be explained in a military context," Interior Minister Jorge Correa told reporters.

"We're talking about a large arsenal and I must stress that it's going to end up being the largest ever found in private hands in the life and history of Chile."

The minister said he was confident the find would convince judges that the commune was not only an illegal association dedicated to sexual crime but had "paramilitary ends as well".

'Torture centre'

The farming and religious community, which Mr Schaefer founded in 1961, was cut off from the outside world.

It is believed to have served as an interrogation and torture centre for political prisoners during Gen Augusto Pinochet's military regime.

In recent years, former residents have testified to sexual abuse, the use of drugs and the separation of families.

They said German was the dominant language and Mr Schaefer, a German army corporal during the Nazi era, was the supreme ruler.

Colonia Dignidad, now known as Villa Baviera, still exists and has about 280 residents.

Members have denied taking part in torture but said they had good relations with the military.

Chilean police raid German enclave
12 Oct 00 |  Americas
Country profile: Chile
26 Mar 05 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Chile
24 May 05 |  Country profiles

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