On the morning of 21 May 2008, in a country-wide
police operation 23 premises were raided and ten
animal protectionists arrested.
Both the police operation and the remand of these
people are thoroughly disproportionate. Doors were
rammed open and masked police units stormed into
homes with their guns drawn. There followed intimidation
through verbal and bodily harassment and humiliation.
As justification, the Public Prosecution cites
§ 278a Austrian Penal Code ("criminal organisation"),
a law, which is otherwise used solely in relation
to smuggling rings and Mafia groups. Proof that
alleged "criminal organisation" exists
is still outstanding, as are concrete connections
that the detainees supposedly have with this ominous
organisation. In fact, more than a year of detailed
surveillance, the "grosse Lauschangriff",
showed no hint of committing, organising or planning
a criminal offence by the accused. Is there any
better proof of their innocence?
It is not acceptable, that a state under the rule
of law remands people in custody without convincing
argument, or that police confiscate computers, mobile
phones, data bases and documents on the off chance.
Four NGOs have been robbed of their functional existence
in this manner. These are serious violations of
Austria's animal welfare laws are considered the
best in the world. This is important for Austria's
international image. These progressive reforms should
be held up in pride, not criminalised.
Austria has many citizens initiatives and NGOs.
The work by these important groups is jeopardized
as long as §278a is still in place and threatening
everybody, who dares to speak up. A number of animal
protection organisations have not received their
vital office equipment back. What is actually happening
here, is a very worrying attack on NGO-work and
on our basic human rights to a degree unheard of
before in Austria. Please help to protect these
rights and make sure that NGOs can once again fill
their vital role free of state repression in the
name of us all.