Case against Martin Balluch and fellow Austrian activists is thrown out of court

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2011:

VIENNA–Austrian federal judge Sonja Arleth on May 2, 2011
dismissed all charges against Association Against Animal Factories
(VGT) founder Martin Balluch and co-defendants, just three weeks
short of three years after Balluch and 11 others representing seven
animal advocacy organizations were arrested in dawn raids on at least
two dozen homes and offices on May 21, 2008.
Three of the arrestees were released without charges soon
afterward. Balluch and nine others were released on bail 104 days
later, charged with alleged involvement in a variety of “direct
action” offenses that occurred between 2002 and 2007.

Judge Arleth halted the trial proceedings after hearing 97
days of prosecution testimony between March 2, 2010 and April 1,
2011, including several 15-hour nonstop sessions as the prosecution
case wrapped up. The prosecution case reportedly disintegrated after
numerous errors of attribution were exposed in texts of e-mails,
letters, and articles said to have been authored by Balluch. Four of
the actual authors testified for the defense during cross-examination.
Judge Arleth ruled that “the police conducted illegal
investigations and cover-up, then lied in court,” summarized the
Farm Animal Rights Movement (formerly Farm Animal Reform Movement),
which had supported the defense case with a series of demonstrations
outside the Austrian embassy in Washington D.C. Balluch contended
from his arrest forward that the intent of the case was to silence
Austrian animal advocacy, just as VGT was preparing to introduce an
initiative campaign on behalf of farm animals.
“At the end of 2006,” Balluch charged in a July 2008
statement, “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. The telephone and e-mail
conversations of more than 30 people were monitored. Seventeen
people were followed and watched 24 hours a day. More than a dozen
potential targets of animal rights activists were under permanent
surveillance. “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.”
Holding a double Ph.D. in physics and philosophy, Balluch is
a former colleague of Stephen Hawking at Cambridge University. While
in Britain, however, Balluch was also an associate of Barry Horne,
a British activist who was convicted in November 1997 of committing
arsons against druggists. Sentenced to serve 18 years in prison,
Horne died on November 5, 2002, at age 49, after a two-week hunger
strike, at least his fifth hunger strike since his conviction.
Involved in animal advocacy since 1983, Horne had reportedly been
arrested at least five times and convicted at least twice before in
connection with “direct action” protest between 1988 and 1996.
Balluch has by contrast tactically favored classic civil
disobedience and mainstream political organizing.
In March 2003 Balluch conducted an “open rescue” of seven
battery-caged hens in a case in which the farmer was ultimately fined
200 euros and ordered to reduce his caging density. Balluch was
convicted of theft, but the Austrian High Court in June 2004
reversed the conviction, two weeks after the Austrian parliament
banned battery caging.
Balluch in January 2008 lost a yearlong bid to have a
chimpanzee named Matthew Hiasl Pan declared legally a person, when
the Austrian Supreme Court rejected his last appeal. Balluch sought
personshood status for Matthew Hiasl Pan as a test case, hoping to
prevent him from being sold abroad, beyond Austrian legal
protection. Captured in Sierra Leone in 1982, Hiasl Pan was smuggled
into Austria for laboratory use, but was rescued by Austrian customs

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