Following a lengthy police investigation and an 18-week trial costing over 4.5 million pounds, the operator of a website criticising animal testing company Sequani, has been jailed for four and a half years for organising a legal protest.
In an unprecedented case, the press were barred from reporting the trial, witnesses were bussed into the court and mobile phones were even confiscated from the public before they entered the gallery and the jury. The atmosphere was more akin to a terrorist trial than one relating to non-violent protest, which made the charges appear far more sinister than they in fact were. The choice of judge was also considered highly questionable considering he is a keen hunter.
Sean Kirtley was found guilty under Section 145 of the SOCPA law for "Interfering with the contractual relationships of a Laboratory" for allegedly organising protests at Sequani Limited and associated business associates. Police say disorder took place on a occasions during protests and claim as the organiser that Sean is responsible for any criminality that takes place.
Kirtley will be lodging an appeal. Kirtley's defence lawyer said: "This case sadly goes to show that animal rights campaigners have been singled out and ordinary criminal law principles have been contorted simply because, in the Government's eyes, powerful commercial interests, founded on animal experimentation, are at risk from effective, open and popular protests."
We urge the press to cover the case because this is not just an issue of an animal rights protester, whose views we understand many members of the media may not share. But as Voltaire once said: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it".
We hope that this proves the case today. Most importantly, the case has serious repercussions on the freedom of publishing protest information on the net and the right to protest peacefully, particularly where commercial interests are concerned.
The SSAT website was closed down and a new campaign against animal experimentation at Sequani has been started by other activists -- http://sequani.wordpress.com
Interviews can be arranged with the legal team and campaign press
officer by contacting:
Name: Chris Dowdeswell
Tel: 01452 539673 / 07912 039069