14 September 2005

COURT RELEASES COLONIA DIGNIDAD DOCTOR

(Sept 14, 2005) Ex-Colonia Dignidad doctor Harmut Hopp was released on bail last week after denying charges of human rights violations. Pointing the finger at Paul Schafer, leader of the right-wing paramilitary group of Germans in the south of Chile, Hopp denied any knowledge of illegal activities at the Colony compound.

Colonia Dignidad was a settlement founded by German immigrants in 1961 near Catillo in southern Chile. Members of the group have long been suspected of aiding the military regime of Augusto Pinochet to torture and execute political prisoners. The group’s leader, Paul Schafer, was arrested on March 10 outside of Buenos Aires after an eight-year man hunt. He was expelled from the country and returned to Chile to stand trial for multiple counts of child abuse, tax evasion, and human rights violations (ST Mar. 11).

Chilean authorities recently charged Schafer’s second-in-command, Harmut Hopp, as an accomplice in the kidnappings of three left-wing activists missing since 1976 as well as medical malpractice as the Colony’s doctor. Hopp denied taking part in the acts and blamed Schafer as “The only one responsible for what occurred inside Colonia Dignidad.”

After Chilean officials took control of the compound in August they found what might be the largest arms cache ever seized in Chile’s history. When questioned about the weapons, Hopp denied any knowledge of their existence.

The decision to release Hopp on bail was immediately appealed by the State Defense Council (CDE) Hernán Fernández. The lawyer then lodged a disciplinary complaint against lead judge Jorge Zepeda for the court’s decision to grant Hopp bail. The CDE stated that the Zepeda’s decision to release Hopp constituted functional negligence because it failed to consider the relevant facts of the case.

Fernández said “it is impossible that Hopp was not directly involved in the crimes that occurred at the Colony. Until very recently, Hopp was a key piece in this system of oppression.”

The case will now be sent to the Court of Appeals to decide whether any irregularities occurred in the decision to grant the Doctor bail.

SOURCE: EL MERCURIO, LA NACÍON, RADIO COOPERATIVA