Jailed Chilean cult leader Schaefer dies at 89

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Former Nazi Paul Schaefer,  who founded a secretive German cult in Southern Chile in the  1960s and was later convicted of sexually abusing children,  died of heart failure in a prison hospital on Saturday,  officials said.

Local media initially said he was 88 at the time of his  death, but a death certificate released later by doctors listed  his age as 89. Chile’s courts began investigating Schaefer on sex abuse  charges in 1997. He fled to Argentina where he hid until he was  found in 2005. He was returned to Chile and sentenced to 20  years in prison for sexually abusing 25 children.

Courts also investigated Schaefer for keeping a huge cache  of illegal weapons and helping former right-wing dictator  Augusto Pinochet’s secret police kidnap and torture political  prisoners. For decades, the residents of Villa Baviera, initially  called Colonia Dignidad, submitted to the authoritarian whims  of Schaefer, who banned almost all contact with the outside  world at the commune 210 miles (350 km) south of Santiago, the  capital. Under his rules, men and women lived separately, intimate  contact was controlled and children were split from their  parents.

In 2006, former members of the cult issued a public apology  and asked for forgiveness for 40 years of sex and human rights  abuses in their community, saying they were brainwashed by  Schaefer, who many viewed as God.

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