Posted: Wed Aug 13, 2008 2:15 pm Post subject: Animal Activists Imprisoned Without Charge in Austria
We wish to share with you the following alarming communication, and call on you to take action:
"In the early morning hours of 21 May, 2008, a concerted country-wide police operation in Austria raided and searched the homes of 23 animal protectionists. Ten people were remanded in custody. To date no concrete or substantive grounds have been announced for those arrests and remands in custody.
Both the police operation and the remand in custody of these people are completely disproportionate. For example, doors were rammed open without warning; masked police officers stormed homes with drawn guns. This was followed by grievous verbal and physical harassment and humiliation.
"As justification for the raids, the Public Prosecutor's Office cites paragraph 278a of the Austrian Penal Code (The formation of a 'criminal organisation'), a paragraph, which is otherwise used solely in relation to people smuggling rings and Mafia organisations. Proof of the existence of the alleged 'criminal organisation' by the authorities is still outstanding. The Public Prosecutor's Office has also not made any clear statements about the concrete connections that the detainees supposedly have with this ominous organisation.
"It cannot be accepted that a state under the rule of law remands people in custody without convincing argument. It cannot be accepted that the police confiscate computers, mobile telephones, member lists and documents on the off chance. Four Animal Protection Associations have been robbed of their functional existence in this manner. These facts are all serious violations of civil rights.
"It appears that there is an attempt to criminalise the Austrian Animal Protection and Animal Rights movement. The police operation is causing lasting damage to the image of the Animal Protection movement. By depriving the NGOs of their infrastructure and lists of potential donors, they are deprived of all chances to continue to working for and representing their concerns."
from 'Petition Statement', Association Against Animal Farming
* On 21 May 2008, ten animal activists were imprisoned without charge in Austria, using powers granted by laws aimed at controlling organised crime.
* Although no concrete charges or evidence have been brought against them, they are accused of belonging to a "criminal organisation". The allegations and imprisonment apparently relate to their animal activism.
* The prisoners include Felix Hnat, Chairperson of the Austrian Vegan Society and members of other animal welfare groups
* Protests from Amnesty International as well as vegetarian/vegan and animal welfare groups worldwide.
* The period of detention has now been extended to September 2008, still without formal charges being laid.
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