Five Sect Leaders in Chile Sent to Desert Prison Camp

Special to The New York Times

SANTIAGO, Chile, March 23 - As part of its crackdown on "hippies," spiritualists and social nonconformists, the military junta of Chile announced yesterday that it had sent five leaders of the Silo religious movement to one of its main political prison camps.

Silo, a movement begun in Argentina several years ago, advocates a communal, nonmaterialistic life style. But the junta has accused its followers of being "servants of international Communism" allegedly seeking to implant "malignant ideas in youthful minds" in order to destroy the traditional family system.

The five Chilean Siloists, who were relegated to the Pisagua prison camp, in the northern Chilean desert about 1,170 miles from Santiago, were identified as Bruno Werner von Ehremberg, Nils Eric Johanssen, Juan Pablo Zanartu, Leonardo Espinoza Prieto and Luis Lira Harquin.

They join about 1,000 other prisoners in Pisagua who have been held there since the military coup last September that overthrew the Marxist coalition government of Salvador Allende Gossens.

Church sources estimate there are more than 10,000 political prisoners, virtually all of them held without any formal charges.

'Acts Against Family'

In announcing the transfer of the Siloists from a Santiago detention center where they had been held for more than a month, Gen. Oscar Bonilla Bradanovic, the Minister of Interior, said the Government would not tolerate acts against "morality and family cohesion." He contended that these precepts were being undermined by groups like the Siloists and the Divine Light Mission, followers of the 16-year-old guru Maharaj Ji, as well as by such current fads as "streaking," which has been banned in Chile.

Earlier this week, in a night raid on the Divine Light Mission temple here, the police arrested 208 disciples of Maharaj Ji.

Twelve foreigners caught in the operation were expelled from the country on Friday. They included two Indians, three North Americans and four Latin Americans. Two Americans in the group were identified as Earl Kracow and Lewis Topping.

In disclosing the imprisonment of the Siloists, General Bonilla said similar measures would apply to disciples of the Maharaj Ji.

"This is a first warning," said the Minister of Interior.

Throughout its six months in power, the Junta has taken a strong puritanical stand against what it perceives to be deviations from accepted social norms.

In recent weeks the Government has passed strict new dress standards for secondary school students. Boys' hair is not permitted to cover the ears, girls' dresses must be only a few inches above the knee and ostentatious jewelry and high platform shoes are forbidden.

Copyright The New York Times
Originally published March 24, 1974