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Leader of notorious German colony dead in Chile

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — A former Nazi soldier who founded a secretive, commune-like colony of German immigrants died Saturday in a Chilean prison where he was serving time for child molestation and human rights abuses dating to the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

Paul Schaefer, 89, was being treated in a prison hospital for heart problems and other difficulties related to his advanced age, the corrections department said in a statement. The statement blamed his death on heart failure caused by severe constriction of the aorta.

Schaefer emigrated to Chile in 1961 and started the Colonia Dignidad, or Dignity Colony, a strictly regimented enclave 210 miles (340 kilometers) south of the capital, Santiago, that was home to several hundred Germans and Chileans.

According to witnesses' testimony in court documents, Schaefer allowed Pinochet's security forces to operate a clandestine prison on the grounds where they detained, tortured and executed dissidents during the 1973-1990 military dictatorship.

Colonia Dignidad members say he ruled them cruelly as well. Married couples were forced to live apart, and children separated from parents. Residents were prevented from leaving. Those who angered Schaefer were subject to electric shocks, high doses of tranquilizers and long periods of isolation.

Many "became real slaves of Schaefer, like robots dedicated only to obey his orders and not displease him," members said in a newspaper ad they took out in 2006 acknowledging human rights abuses at the colony and asking for forgiveness.

There were also dozens of allegations of child molestation, leading Schaefer to flee the country in 1997; he was arrested in neighboring Argentina in 2005 and extradited back to Chile the same year.

Schaefer was convicted in 2006 of sexually abusing 20 children who attended the colony's school and clinic. He was sentenced to 20 years, plus three additional years for an illegal weapons conviction.

In two separate cases in 2008, Schaefer received more prison time for the torture of seven colony residents and for the fatal poisoning of a renegade security agent during the dictatorship.

He was also investigated for tax evasion.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said Saturday that while Schaefer lived to serve only a fraction of his prison sentences, he will now face "a divine justice."

Schaefer's adopted daughter, Rebeca Schaefer, is asking for him to be buried in the German colony's cemetery, but there was no immediate word on whether the community would allow it.

The spokesman for what remains of Colonia Dignidad expressed sadness at the passing of Schaefer "as a human being," but said the enclave is not what it used to be under its former leader.

"Everything that exists today no longer has anything to do with the hierarchical, authoritarian system of those times," Martin Matthusen told Cooperativa radio.