Austrian activists freed after 104 days, still face charges

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2008:
VIENNA–Association Against Animal
Factories founder Martin Balluch, Vier Pfoten
campaign director Jürgen Faulmann, and eight
other Austrian animal advocates were released
from jail on September 2, 2008, 104 days after
they were arrested in a series of dawn raids on
May 21.
Three other activists who were arrested
at the same time were released earlier.
The ten who were released on September 2
were arraigned in July for alleged involvement in
a variety of “direct action” offenses between
2002 and 2007. All have pleaded innocent.

“I was released without the keys to my
home, my car, or my office being returned to
me. I was also not given my computer, access to
my bank account, or even my wrist watch,”
Balluch said in a prepared statement. “Our
office, and the offices of six other animal
rights groups, are still empty. Nothing has
been handed back so far: no video material or
cameras, no computers, no membership data, no
archives, and no bookkeeping.”
Prosecution spokesperson Erich Habitzl
told David Hill of the Austrian Times that the
release of Balluch, Faulmann, et al would not
interrupt the ongoing police investigation of
their activities.
Balluch alleged that the intent of the
arrests was to silence Austrian animal advocacy,
just as his organization was preparing to
introduce an initiative campaign on behalf of
farm animals.
“At the end of 2006,” Balluch charged,
“the owners of Kleider Bauer [an Austrian
furrier] and representatives of the Conservative
Party as well as high ranking police officers met
and spoke about how to destroy [the Association
Against Animal Factories]. The minutes of those
meetings are now in our hands.”
After other tactics failed, Balluch
asserted, “a special police unit consisting of
more than 32 agents from the secret service, the
murder division, and from the anti-terror police
was formed with the sole purpose of framing us.
This special unit started the largest operation
of spying on political activists since World War
2. For almost two years, two private houses, a
pub [we used] as a meeting place and our offices
were bugged. The telephone and e-mail
conversations of more than 30 people were
monitored. Two cars, including mine, had
tracking devices put on them. Seventeen people
were followed and watched 24 hours a day. Three
private homes had video cameras filming their
entrances. Undercover agents tried to infiltrate
us. More than a dozen potential targets of
animal rights activists were under permanent
“To justify this operation,” Balluch
said, “the secret service drew up a list of 240
acts of criminal damage and arson from the past
13 years, and claimed there was one big
international criminal organization responsible
for all of them.”
Added Balluch, “The Green Party and the
Social Democrats criticized the police actions
with increasing impatienceŠThe case of whether
our imprisonment was legal is still pending
before the Austrian Supreme Court.”
“Green party boss Alexander Van der
Bellen asked Balluch to run as an independent
candidate for the party in the September 28
election,” wrote Hill of the Austrian Times.
In a partially parallel British case,
reported Cahal Milmo and Kate Head of The
Independent on September 25, the Kent police
have “offered £40,000 in compensation to animal
rights campaigners, including supporters of the
Animal Liberation Front, after they were
prevented from joining a protest against
livestock exports.”
Elaborated Milmo and Head, “The group of
London-based protesters, representing several
animal rights groups, accused Kent police of
heavy-handed tactics after their coach was
stopped as it entered Dover in July 2006 en route
to a demonstration against the shipping of sheep
and cattle to the Continent.
Said ALF Support Group donor Adrian
Appley, 65, “The police pulled us over by
claiming that our coach was not roadworthy, but
it rapidly became clear that they did not want to
let us reach the protest. “At first we were told
that we could demonstrate for half an hour. But
10 minutes later we were all told to get back on
the coach and anyone refusing to do so would be
arrested. The police started filming everyone on
board the coach and when one of our group tried
to get off he was forcibly prevented from doing
“We were then escorted all the way back
up the motorway to London, and were told that we
could not turn off the motorway at any point for
water or toilet breaks, on one of the hottest
days of the year. It was a ridiculous situation,”
Appley said. “Most of us were middle-aged or
elderly, and we had all come to exercise our
democratic right to stage a peaceful protest.”

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