Kinship Circle: ACT/ Animal Activists Unlawfully Jailed

June 12th, 2008 12:36 pm by Kelly Garbato

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From: Kinship Circle – kinshipcircle [at] accessus.net
Date: Wed, Jun 11, 2008 at 5:05 PM
Subject: ACT/ Animal Activists Unlawfully Jailed

KINSHIP CIRCLE PRIMARY – PERMISSION TO CROSS-POST AS WRITTEN

6/11/08: Austria – Animal Activists Unlawfully Jailed
EMAIL kinshipcircle [at] accessus.net FOR WORD DOC OF A FORMATTED LETTER.
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On May 21, 2008, Austrian police invaded 23 homes and offices of animal rights advocates, arresting 14 citizens on a hunch they’d launched a criminal organization. With no solid evidence, these activists remain jailed. One prisoner, Dr. Martin Balluch, president of the Austrian Association Against Animal Factories, is growing weak on a hunger strike… This case — and the notion of constitutional rights within a free society — resonates for activists everywhere. Please demand their release.

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FULL CONTACT INFORMATION. Sample letter follows.

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Federal Minister Of The Interior Guenther Platter
Herrengasse 7, 1010 Vienna, Vienna
ph: +43/1/53126-0; email: Ministerbuero [at] bmi.gv.at

Federal Minister For Justice Maria Berger
Museumstrasse 7, 1070 Vienna, Austria
ph: +43/1/52152-0; email: minister.justiz [at] bmi.gv.at

Federal Chancellor Dr. Alfred Gusenbauer
Ballhausplatz 2, 1014 Vienna, Austria
ph: +43/1/53115-0; email: alfred.gusenbauer [at] bka.gv.at

Federal President Dr. Heinz Fischer
Hofburg, Leopoldinischer Trakt
A 1014 Vienna, Austria
ph: +43(0)1 53422; email: heinz.fischer [at] hofburg.at, soziales [at] hofburg.at

Austrian Embassy, Washington, D.C. – Consular Section
3524 International Court, NW; Washington, D.C., 20008
Ambassador Eva Nowotny
ph: 202-895-6700 (after German message, press 1, then 7 to reach the Ambassador’s office)
fax: 202-895-6750
email: Eva.Nowotny [at] bmeia.gv.at, christine.hargrove [at] bmeia.gv.at

TO FIND AUSTRIAN EMBASSIES IN OTHER NATIONS, TRY:
http://www.embassyworld.com/embassy/Austria/Austria.html
http://www.bmeia.gv.at/index.php?id=61960&L=1

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Ministerbuero [at] bmi.gv.at, minister.justiz [at] bmi.gv.at, alfred.gusenbauer [at] bka.gv.at, heinz.fischer [at] hofburg.at, soziales [at] hofburg.at, Eva.Nowotny [at] bmeia.gv.at, christine.hargrove [at] bmeia.gv.at

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SAMPLE LETTER — This letter is prepared to inform you about the issue.
Try to shorten and personalize your letter before sending.

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Honorable Officials of Austria:

It is my understanding the Republic of Austria is governed according to the principles of representative democracy. Yet on May 21, 2008, Austrian police invaded 23 homes and offices of animal protection advocates, arresting 14 citizens on a hunch they’d formed a criminal organization.

Without regard for individual liberties, officers acting on behalf of an independent court ransacked properties, shattering doors and seizing computers and documents. Some “suspects” were arrested at gunpoint, despite a lack of incriminating evidence.

These events threaten the notion of constitutional rights within a free society. I respectfully demand the release of 10 Austrian activists still detained under §278a of the Austrian penal code.

Please terminate §278a proceedings, which essentially blacklist political/social activists as conspirators in criminal organizations.

The 10 activists could languish in pre-trial detention for months under vague allegations of “Danger of Destruction of Evidence” and “Danger of Committing Further Crimes.” I’ve learned files submitted to their lawyers failed to prove criminal offense and that access to full documentation has been limited. Prolonged custody violates human rights and constitutional privileges to fair legal proceedings.

It is no surprise demonstrators in Austria, Romania, Germany, Sweden, the United States and elsewhere continue to stand in solidarity against this miscarriage of justice.

Please let me know of actions underway to release these unlawfully detained animal welfare advocates in Austria.

Thank you,

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DIRECT COMMUNIQUE FROM PRISONER MARTIN BALLUCH

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A highly respected European animal rights leader

SOURCE: Alex at Equal Justice, alex [at] equaljusticealliance.org

I have had nothing to eat for 7 days, since Tuesday 20th May 2008. I am in custody in Vienna Neustadt on hunger strike.

Early on Wednesday morning, while it was still dark, a group of masked men wearing black broke down my apartment door, held me in bed with a gun to my head and forced me to stand up naked. My brother in the adjoining room was placed with his hands against the wall and a the pistol against his neck, while his 7-year-old daughter had to watch. Then the police searched through my apartment, turned everything upside down. and left only 6 hours later with my computers, books, writings and video cassettes. I have been sitting in a cell ever since.

Since I was not actually informed what is actually alleged against me, I went on hunger strike. After so many days without food I feel very weak. If I move quickly, everything starts spinning. But I still have confidence in the rule of law, that we here in Austria cannot be treated like this without good reason. And that’s why I will continue on hunger strike until either I am given a justification or I am released.

My lawyer has explained the case being alleged against me. He is very thorough, but provides no justification for my treatment. In 1500 pages of documents my name is mentioned only 3 times: once because of an interview that I gave to an American animal protection magazine, once because of an article with me in the magazine “Wiener”, and lastly because of a radio show with me on Radio Orange. It cannot seriously be true that I am being so mistreated and held in pre-trial custody because of my media work.

The 1500-pages of legal documents consist primarily of police investigations into a total of 27 animal protection actions over recent years. This includes actions such as “stalking an employee of a prominent fur company”, “hanging an anti-fur poster on the western Highway” and 2x “throwing small bits of paper around at the business premises of a leading fur company”, through to the damaging of cars, smashing of windows and throwing stink bombs. In the whole case there is no mention of arson or gas attacks, which I understand has been claimed by the State Prosecutor in the media. In fact the station ORF reported that there was an animal rights arson attack in 2000 but nothing since then.

All police investigative reports on the 27 incidents end with the finding that the perpetrators are unknown.

Nevertheless on the Wednesday in question, as well as my apartment, 23 other apartments and offices from animal protection activists and a total of four animal protection societies were raided. Ten people were arrested. According to documents, the police investigation was triggered by a rally against renewed Nazi activity in 2006 which was organized by a Green councillor. Because some anti-Nazi graffiti was found in the same place, the Green councillor’s house was searched – of course without result. The police however connected this graffiti with the cutting of advertising posters of a reptile show in Voesendorf, and since then the State Prosecutor in Wr. Neustadt has been investigating the animal rights scene…

Since at least the year 2004, in which the VGT succeeded against the will of the animal industry to enforce a ban on battery hens, we sensed there was a politically motivated campaign against our group. This campaign has obviously culminated in this action. The group’s office was robbed of all its computer files – apparently for months or years – and is thus for a long time unable to act politically. Similarly, the apartments of the VGT treasurer and two prominent VGT campaigners were searched, and computers and campaign materials were taken.. I am the only VGT campaigner in prison.

To conceal the fact that that this action has been carried out without any concrete evidence which will lead to a criminal trial – and without the results from the house searches – the Interior Ministry is now hiding away, spreading rumours of arson and keeping me in pre-trial detention, as if there were a reason for my arrest. Since this is not true, and in order to make public this whole scandal of police terror, I had to embark on an indefinite hunger strike, and therefore put my own health and my life seriously at risk. I urge all citizens in our country, who hold human rights dearly, to support me and my life to save. Please do not allow the Constitution and our fundamental rights be trampled underfoot.

Dr. Martin Balluch, Chairman of the VGT — from the prison cell

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SOURCE OF INFORMATION / REFERENCE LINKS

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FARM Demands Freedom for Austrian Activists
http://farmusa.org/Alerts/RPTAustria8.htm

SUPPORT WEBSITE For Austrian Activists Unjustly Arrested
http://www.antirep2008.tk/

Austria: Indefensible Attack Against Animal Welfare Movement
Alex at Equal Justice, alex [at] equaljusticealliance.org

[WAR] International Day of Solidarity with Jailed Austrian Activists on Hunger Strike
centcom [at] war-online.org

Association Against Animal Factories (read case updates here)
http://www.vgt.at/index_en.php

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