FARM Protests Austrian Repression at Embassy

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.

Outside the Austrian Embassy- 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.

Background Information:

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.

For more information, visit:

http://www.shameonaustria.org/en/

http://www.blog.farmusa.org


Let’s continue to speak out for compassion and justice!


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Updates from Weeks 8 & 9 of Austrian Trial

Solidarity Protests Abroad

The majority of  the Austrian activist trial for weeks 8 and 9 have been focused on questioning witnesses about legal anti fur demonstrations. The defense made an objection to the judge on the grounds that the demonstrations under discussion were legally registered (ie pre-registered with the police), not forbidden (by the police) and had no relevance to any crimes. The judge overruled the objection stating that those demonstrations were incriminated as part of a double strategy of legal protests and illegal activity.

Testimony from Firouz, media spokesperson for Kleider Bauer, was heard via remote and the judge showed photos to the court of a vandalized car. Police found fingerprints on the car, but they didn’t match any of the defendants on trial.

The judge then showed what Firouz referred to as “threatening” e-mails. All emails were from German animal organizations and signed by name. The e-mails were, without exception, all polite.

The defense then pointed out that the spokesperson’s business and private contact details could be found easily online and wanted to know whether she herself had put them online. Firuoz answered ‘yes’.

Fur shop assistants and managers were asked to describe the anti fur demonstrations in front of their stores and the behavior of the protesters taking part. Most witnesses thus far have reported that demonstrations had been peaceful on the whole. None of the witnesses testifying gave any evidence linking defendants to crimes.

A criminology lab’s chemical analysis on substances found at crime scenes and during the house raids were suppressed. The samples taken were a negative match, but this information does not appear in the prosecution files, neither was it given to the defendants or to their lawyers. This is just another instance of exonerating evidence being withheld – a violation of the laws that pertain to trial proceedings.

Another witness for the prosecution was a leading member of the special commission investigating the defendants. His testimony was characterized by the fact that he was unable to remember anything including whether or not he had been present at the arrests and house raids!

The Austrian press commented on the long drawn out nature of the trial, the distinct lack of evidence against the defendants, and reminded the public of the tax money funding this witch hunt.

Even the head of Amnesty International Austria criticized the trial in an online interview with one of the country’s leading newspapers

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Weeks 6 & 7 Updates from Austrian Activist Trial

Blockade of a Czech-Austrian border crossing for Austrian Solidarity Campaign

Interesting developments have unfolded in weeks six and seven at the trial in Austria and the kick off of the global solidarity campaign, Shame on Austria.  There have been two different solidarity actions to raise awareness about the repression animal activists are receiving from the Austrian government.  One action included 15-minute blockade of a Czech-Austrian border crossing on Wednesday.

The protest was reported by all three major Czech TV stations, two of which included the report in the main evening news program, which means that the protest was seen by more than a million people! It was also shortly mentioned in the main evening news program of the Slovak public TV.

In week six, the prosecution brought in English police detective John Madigan involved in investigating animal rights extremism in the UK. He told the court that there had been no contact between activists he has investigated in the UK and the Austrian defendants. He also informed the court that none of the Austrian defendants were in the UK at the time of any of the relevant crimes. This prompted defense lawyers to question the relevance of this particular witness.  Then, it was stated that Dr Martin Balluch, a defendant, was living in England until 1997 and was investigated. However, all investigations were discontinued.

Madigan was also questioned about the SHAC campaign, and stated that there were no connections between SHAC organizers in England and the Austrian defendants.  The defense went on to ask Madigan whether anyone in the UK had ever been convicted of all animal rights related offences, like what is currently happening in Austria. Madigan explained that the question made no sense to him. At this the public roared with laughter because of his incidental ridiculing of this Austrian trial, and someone called out that “this only happens in Austria!”

Week six also had the prosecution’s expert witness on linguistics. School teacher Wolfgang Schweiger is currently the only linguist in Austria authorized to give evidence as expert witness in court. This supposed “expert” witness for the prosecution made unsubstantiated claims which reinforced the prosecution’s case.   This caused him to be criticized and deemed incompetent by peers.

Unfortunately, the judge didn’t allow the testimony of two university level forensic linguistics professors who criticized the prosecution’s “expert” witness. They both have serious complaints about Schweiger’s findings, citing his failures to adhere to recognized standards of methodology and to report that two of the three notes claiming responsibility for offences do not even qualify as such notes.

Week seven of the trial brought on some interesting and new “court regulations”. Outside the court building police in full uniform were present. In the court room between 40 and 50 trainee police officers took up seats in the public viewing gallery. Presumably this measure was in response to the last session’s disturbances from the public as they expressed their outrage at the disputed testimony given by the prosecution’s linguistic expert.

In addition, anyone wanting to observe the proceeding as of Monday must now show ID. This was not the case up until now. Thanks to this surprisingly rapid change in court regulations around 30 animal rights sympathizers didn’t get to watch the proceedings, including relatives of the defendants.

Also, a general ban on filming anywhere in the whole court building was also issued this week. Until now it had been possible to film when the court was not in session or outside the courtroom. A film team from the Czech Republic was thrown out of the court for interviewing the defendants as they went into the court room.

The rest of the week was taken up by talking about the anti-fur campaigns and what tactics had been used.  The session ended with the witness informing one of the defense lawyers that Kleider Bauer (a fashion store that sells fur) would be suing him, his client Dr Balluch and a website for slander on account of an interview given by the lawyer, claiming damages of 30.000 Euro from each.

FARM (Farm Animal Rights Movement) has scheduled a demonstration at the Austrian Embassy in Washington DC as a part of the Shame on Austria solidarity campaign.  Solidarity is more than just a word.  Come out and express your outrage about this severe miscarriage of justice!

When: Wed May 26th @ 12 noon- 1 pm.

Where: The Austrian Embassy (3524 International Ct NW)

RSVP: adam@farmusa.org or call 301-530-1737 or on the day of 202-577-5527

FARM will continue to send updates and alerts so stay tuned!

Can’t make the solidarity demos in DC? You can still help!  Visit the solidarity campaign website for sample letter and send a protest letter!

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Animal Rights 2010 National Conference

Are you a seasoned vegan activist looking to refine your skills? A veg-newcomer who wants to take a larger role in ending exploitation? Do you volunteer at your local no-kill dog and cat shelter? Or maybe you’ve demonstrated against animal testing or circuses?

If any of those sound like you, then join us at the Animal Rights 2010 National Conference! There you will attend sessions by prominent movement leaders, eat delicious vegan food, network with activists from around the world, and witness animal rights movie premiers! The AR Conference is the largest and longest running animal rights gathering in the world, and represents all viewpoints that lead to animal liberation.

Other highlights include nearly 100 speakers, 80 videos, celebrity and activist awards, and eyewitness reports on campaigns such as the Whale Wars.  Speakers will be present from Farm Sanctuary, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Mercy For Animals, Food Not Bombs, FARM, In Defense of Animals, Compassion Over Killing, and more.

The conference registration price is highly discounted until May 10th, and stays at a discount until the end of June. Additionally, there are low income discounts, and volunteers can get their registration refunded back to them! There is something for all animal advocates at the conference, so register at the website or call us at 1-888-FARM-USA.

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