On Wednesday, May 26th, FARM staff and volunteers protested outside of the Austrian Embassy as part of the Shame on Austria campaign for the 13 animal activists currently on trial in Austria (see background information below). An element of the Shame on Austria solidarity campaign is a chain of demonstrations with at least one protest in one country every week of the trial. Today this global campaign came to Washington DC.
For an hour, activists gathered and marched in front of the Austrian Embassy chanting messages and carrying large signs reading “Stop Austrian Repression,” “Activism is NOT a crime,” “Protect Free Speech,” and “Drop All Charges- Shame On Austria!” Protesters expressed outrage at the current treatment of animal advocates by the Austrian government and demanded that all charges against these individuals be dropped.
During the demonstration, a few FARM activists approached the embassy to deliver a letter to the the embassy’s public information officer, Wolfgang Renezeder. Friendly and understanding, Mr Renezeder was aware of the worldwide protests that have been going on with the Shame on Austria campaign and agreed to make sure the letter is delivered to the Ministry of Justice in Vienna.
FARM will continue to take a stand and speak out against the Austrian government until this injustice is stopped and the charges against the 13 animal protection activists are dropped.
Two years ago, the homes and offices of ten leading Austrian animal advocates were raided and these individuals were kept in solitary confinement for several months. This has been shown to be part of a two year investigation which has resulted in twenty-six homes and seven NGO office searches, informants, wiretaps, e-mail surveillance and personal and vehicle tracking. All of the money, time and resources dedicated to this harassment have yielded no direct evidence of any criminal activity by those targeted.
The primary “evidence” against several of these defendants is that they organized and took part in demonstrations, distributed leaflets, expressed opinions in internet debates an d engaged in other fully legal NGO campaign work. Section 278a of the Austrian Criminal Code is being used to argue that these activities, although legal, have influenced other “unknown persons” to commit illegal offenses. Aboveground activists, doing legal work, are being made responsible for the actions of people totally unknown to them. This week marks the 11th week of trial.
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