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Animal Protection > Worldwide Actions > Austria
Help Austria Activists

From: "Austria Campaign" <austriacampaign@ gmail.com>
Sent: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 1:48 PM
Subject: Help the Persecuted Activists

Dear activists,

I am writing to seek support for an extremely important international campaign against unscrupulous persecution of 10 Austrian animal protection activists, who are now facing up to 5 years in prison for nothing but normal and legal campaigning for animals.

You can help the campaign in four ways:
- by helping to translate the international website into your language (even a few paragraphs will help!),
- by buying a domain for your language version of the website,
- by organising protest events in your country once the campaign is launched,
- by forwarding this appeal to other activists you know.

If you would like to support us in any of the four ways, please reply shortly to this email, and I will send you more information. If you don't receive this within three days, don't hesitate to write back again (your mail might get lost in a spam filter).

You can find more information about the background of the Austrian case, and
why this campaign is so extremely important, in the attached letter.

Please do take time to consider the arguments for supporting the campaign.

Kind regards

Marek Vorsilka
Campaign co-ordinator


The letter:
Dear friends, colleagues, activists from around the globe,

I am writing to seek support for an extremely important international campaign against unscrupulous persecution of Austrian animal rights activists, who are now facing up to 5 years in prison for nothing but normal and legal campaigning for animals.

As many of you will have heard, 10 activists were held in custody by the Austrian state in the summer of 2008. One of them spent 39 days on hunger strike. Although the activists were released after three months, the prosecution machinery wasn't stopped. In 2009, it was decided that the ten formerly imprisoned people would indeed be put on trial for their alleged "membership in a criminal organisation" , while 30 other activists, who are accused of the same crime, are still waiting to know how the prosecution will decide about them.

Two of the activists who are now put on trial have released their charge sheets in full on the internet. This has proven in black and white what we all believed from the very beginning. The activists' supposed membership in a criminal organisation is deduced from an extensive list of activities that are completely normal for people involved in legal animal rights campaigning and that were never considered criminal by any reasonable Austrian law expert.

The rationale of the charge goes something like this: the activists have taken part in campaigns pursuing certain goals, e.g. persuading a department store to stop selling fur, by using legal methods like organising demonstrations. On the other hand, unknown people (probably from ALF) have caused some criminal damage to the same target (e.g. fur-selling department store). The prosecution says that these criminal offences and the legal protests are both part of one criminal campaign of a criminal organisation, thus deducing that taking part in these protests is in fact an illegal support of the criminal organisation. To prove that the activists have supported this criminal organisation wilfully, which is what the criminal code requires, the prosecution uses the fact that the activists have occasionally expressed (rather moderate) sympathy with ALF-style action, predominantly as part of private e-mail or internet conversations.

The activists are now facing up to 5 years in prison. Their trial starts in March and will last six(!) months. Even with all reasonable cost reductions, the activists will still be required to pay at least €35,000 each for defence lawyers. But as if it were not enough, there is another appalling thing about the Austrian "justice" - even if a person is found not guilty, he/she has no right to have their legal costs reimbursed.

If this was all happening in China, we couldn't do much else than swear and pray. But this is different. Austria can't afford a reputation of a human rights abuser. The only hope for Austria is that not too many people will know about this scandal and understand it. This also tells us what we must do - make sure that quite the opposite will happen.

We MUST do it. Not only out of solidarity with the Austrian activists, but we must also be able to show that the international animal rights movement is strong enough to repulse such scandalous attacks against legal campaigning of our colleagues. In fact, we will never have better conditions to do that. Unlike some other dubiously justified trials in the past, this case has been well covered by the media from the beginning, the activists have received support from numerous mainstream politicians, organisations, law experts and celebrities. This means that a change of the law which allowed this scandal is achievable. If we don't use this opportunity, we will send out a sign that our movement is weak and that other states can now dare to behave the same way as Austria did.

I would like to appeal to you to take it seriously and support this campaign as much as you can. If you still hesitate to consider this important enough, please watch the following short film: http://www.tierrech tsfilme.at/ langfilme/ pelz_skandinavie n/PelzSkandinavi en.mov.
It is a documentary made by Martin Balluch and his team after intensive filming of Scandinavian fur farms. You don't need to understand a word in German to realise how much of amazing work and compassion is behind the production of this film. But, unscrupulously, the Austrian state now explicitly presents it as one of the reasons why Martin Balluch should go to prison.

Please write back (austriacampaign@ gmail.com) to learn how you can help. If you don't receive a reply within three days, don't hesitate to write back again (your mail might get lost in a spam filter).

Kind regards

Marek Vorsilka

Campaign co-ordinator

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