September 3, 2008
Oesterreich: Tierschuetzer enthaftet
Animal welfare prisoners are free!
Today, the senior public prosecutor surprised in Vienna with a press statement: All 9 remaining animal rights prisoners will be released immediately. They were received at the prison gates by family members, acquaintances, and friends.
The press statement by the senior public prosecution office declared that after a discussion with the public prosecutor's office of Wiener Neustadt, that office had been ordered to apply for the immediate release of the animal welfare activists. This instruction was justified with the fear that the duration of the custody would become disproportionate.
But despite this, the ongoing threat for any civil society engagement remains. The allegation of having formed a criminal organization has not been dropped yet and if this legal construct would become a precedent, it would have vast consequences for a whole range of public interest organizations. All who engage themselves for animal welfare, the protection of the environment, human rights or else, still could be accused under existing law, spied on, and finally dragged before a court of law or imprisoned.
FOUR PAWS employee freed: ?Animal welfare is being criminalised!"
Jürgen Faulmann (39), international campaigns director of the animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS, was released from prison yesterday, where he had been on remand for three months. Here, he answers some of the main questions directed at him and FOUR PAWS.
How are you feeling today?
I?m still fairly tired. I am also constantly surprised by emotional outbursts, particularly as a reaction to media coverage of the release. It is good to know that so many people support us. In prison, you try and suppress all the emotion so you make it through. Now I guess it all has to come out.
Do you know why you were arrested?
As one of the most prominent and active members of the animal welfare movement I obviously provided a wonderful target for those who want to criminalise animal welfare using a law set up to protect against mafia-style organised crime.
Do you suspect political or economic motives behind the arrests?
Both, unfortunately. Some of the connections have already been uncovered by the media and some politicians. The proof is there: economic interests, predominantly a certain clothing chain, joined forces with members of the executive branch to damage the legal animal welfare movement ? with the tacit support of some politicians.
What is your opinion of criminal acts within the animal welfare struggle?
For me, I draw the line at civil disobedience. I do not believe in committing criminal acts.
Do you see yourself as a political prisoner?
It is unacceptable that in a democracy a part of civil society can be criminalised at the request of certain economic interests. It is now paramount that an investigation take place into how and why such an assault on civil liberties and legitimate public interest organisations could take place.
Do you foresee being charged with anything?
It very much depends on the way the so-called "anti-mafia" paragraph is interpreted. If they choose to apply it according to its original purpose there will be no charges. If, however, they continue to abuse the letter of the law for their own ends then there is a risk I will be charged. If that happens, every charitable organisation in Austria is in danger of being labelled criminal ? along with all its supporters.
Will you be taking legal steps?
FAULMANN: At the moment I am concentrating on finding a way back into normal life. There is a lot to deal with emotionally, which will take a lot of strength. My lawyers are examining the case, so I?m afraid I can?t say much more at this stage.
What are your plans for the next few weeks?
FAULMANN: I?m going to spend the weekend with my friends and family and try to make up for lost time. On Monday I will go into the office and concentrate on catching up on work for a week, before its off to the Adriatic Sea for some sailing. My greatest wish at the moment is to take advantage of the freedom. And it has been too long since I was able to pursue my real passion ? hiking in the mountains and enjoying nature.