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Austrian Animal Rights Activists Released


9 Austrian animal rights activists, who have been held in custody since May have been released unexpectedly on Monday.

The nine activists are accused of having participated in attacks on fur shops and farms, causing 600,000 Euro damage. The reason for them being held in remand was the fact that they encrypted their computer hard drives, which the prosecution views as an attempt to suppress evidence.
Ironically, their release is the result of an appeal of the Vienna prosecutioner's office against the release on bail of a tenth accused earlier. This appeal led to a review of the situation by the state prosecutioner who not only confirmed the original decision but also ordered the release of the remaining nine.



Re: Austrian Animal Rights Activists Released

03. 09. 08. - 11:30

Freed campaigner blasts 'biased' policing
The head of the animal rights campaigning group freed after being kept in police detention for 110 days has accused the Austrian police of "manipulating evidence" in a "strongly biased" investigation against him.

Dr Martin Balluch, head of the Association against Animal Factories (VGT), claims police were acting under government orders to create a criminal case against him in order to hamper his organisation's work. He said, "The police acted out a strong bias to make it seem I did something illegal."

Dr Balluch's claims are backed up by government documents that were leaked last Friday detailing correspondences between State Prosecutors and police where the prosecutors demand police put a stop to the VGT's campaigning, disregarding police advice that no criminal activities were found to be linked to the organisation.

Dr Balluch, friend and former colleague of physicist Steven Hawking, claims he was harassed by a long-term government campaign to have him imprisoned. He said:

"For 18 months they bugged my car, followed my every move, filmed meetings and they found nothing. No evidence of criminal activity. All they could come up with were a few emails and quotes they took completely out of context and claimed were ‘subversive’."

The Interior Ministry refused to comment when contacted by the Austrian Times.

Dr Balluch said he has fought for the rights of animals in Austria for eleven years and admitted expressing "radical opinions from time to time" but stressed anything he ever said was not illegal and did not warrant his being imprisoned. He said:

"Since I was imprisoned the police have interviewed me for over 20 hours, but not once have they asked me about a specific crime – ‘were you here at such and such time?’ – instead it’s been – ‘do you know so and so?’, ‘what do they get up to?’"

Asked about his time in detainment, Dr Balluch said: "It was incredible, I cannot find words for what I went through. They took my personal freedom for 110 days.

"I will need some time just to get used to the sunlight again."

"I wasn't in jail to pay my dues for a crime I had committed, I was there because the government think I am a nuisance and they want to stop me. It was a political thing."

Referring to his organisation's success in having eggs from battery hens banned in Austria, he said, "We brought about democratic change and the government could not accept that."

The Austrian fur industry reacted to the release of Dr Balluch and his fellow campaigners with harsh words though. The industry's body said in a statement that the acts of sabotage it suffered - and holds the jailed campaigners responsible for - were vandalism and should not be mixed up with animal protection. The body said: "Law has to remain law and offences caused need to be punished."

The union said Dr Balluch's statement that he would do everything the same given a second chance was "provoking".

After Green Party leader Alexander Van der Bellen on Monday asked Dr Balluch to run as an independent candidate for the party, Dr Balluch today (Wed) said he would accept a seat in the Austrian parliament if he makes the party's list

Greens MP Peter Pilz said a decision on which position Balluch will be listed on the Viennese ballot paper is still to be made.

Van der Bellen announced earlier this week that Balluch will be positioned on a "visible" spot among the top 15 Viennese candidates.

Regarding current polls, only the first five candidates of the Greens in Vienna have a chance of making it into the parliament at the early general elections on 28 September though.

Dr Balluch said he will hold a speech at the Green party convention in Graz on Sunday.