4th June 2008
days ago in the night, in my own home, I was attacked and robbed by a group
of armed, masked men. This is an unending nightmare. To this day I am still
sitting in a tiny cell and stare all day long at the same desolate wall,
and cannot take a single step in privacy, nor can I read the newspaper or
see my friends and family.
is the 13th day of my hunger strike. Having been attacked and locked away
without even the smallest reasonable suspicion of having committed a crime,
I found myself forced to use the last of my autonomy to make a protest:
I refuse to eat. 13 days without food is very painful. The sensations of
hunger drill down into all levels of my consciousness. My body is visibly
deteriorating. I have already lost 18 kilos. Every movement is awful and
exhausting, and I have frequent severe muscle and stomach cramps.
in the mile-high file on my case that the police have been listening in
on my life without interruption for more than a year now, listening in on
every private and intimate conversation that I have. And even so they have
not found even one single bit of proof that would show I had broken the
law. The only "proof" against me that is mentioned are my convictions,
convictions that are evidenced in private conversations and in interviews
with and reports about me in the media. Yes, animal protection is terribly
important to me and I have dedicated my life to it. Yes, I believe that
the horrific treatment of animals in laboratories and animal factories is
not irrelevant in general or to my life, but is instead comparable to the
torture and abuse of people. But this does not make me a criminal. For 25
years now I have been active for animal protection and not once have I ever
been convicted of a crime. In this country we have the freedom to express
our opinions and the freedom to think as our conscience leads us to. At
least that is what I used to believe until very recently. The civil and
human rights guaranteed by the Austrian Constitution forbid persecuting,
abusing and locking away someone for their beliefs. But indeed, exactly
that is what is happening to me.
two-and-a-half decades in which I have been active for animal protection,
I had great successes especially in recent years. I was able to personally
contribute significantly to the prohibition of fur farms, wild animals in
circuses and above all to the end of battery chicken farms, so that in Austria
today we have the best animal protection in the world. But it's exactly
that - especially the end of the battery chicken farms – that seems
to have soured some of the powerful. Since 2004 there has been increasing
harassment from the authorities, culminating in false testimony about the
Association Against Animal Factories being made by the then Minister of
the Interior before the Austrian Parliament. A suit filed for revocation
of his remarks met with no success because of his parliamentary immunity,
but he was forced to admit to the federal Ombudsman Board (Volksanwaltschaft)
that he had "been wrong." He did not even react then to newspaper
ads in which the Association against Animal Factories stated that he was
as it says in my file, a Special Commission against animal protection was
instituted and it has eavesdropped on me and many other animal protection
activists and associations since approximately April 2007. However, since
obviously no real suspicion could be founded despite spying on all of these
many conversations and emails, something had to happen. The Special Commission
couldn't be dissolved without any results. So it was decided to undertake
a major raid and house searches in a dramatic way, in the hopes of digging
up some kind of circumstantial evidence.
to my file there were 23 searches made on 21 May, targeting animal protectionists'
private spaces, including five offices of animal protection associations
(also the Association against Animal Factories offices in Vienna and Graz)
as well as the VGT materials storage area. 24 animal protectionists were
arrested by the police and questioned, including 8 VGT activists.
for the action, since there were no specific suspicions, the vaguest and
most unspecific accusation had to be found. It was decided to choose Section
278a of the Criminal Code, dealing with the establishment of a very large
criminal organization. Since it had been planned from the beginning to put
10 people into investigative custody, Section 278a with its significantly
worse punishment for large criminal associations was chosen instead of the
"smaller" Section 278. Despite the fact that, as the police file
itself says, I had personal contact of any kind ever with only 6 of the
other 9 detainees.
to justify this brutal police action against animal protection to the public,
the elite 'WEGA' force was sent to carry out the raids with weapons drawn,
and then rumours regarding suspected arson and gas attacks were spread.
There's nothing about this in the file, though. Never has there been a gas
attack in Austria having anything to do with animal protection, and the
last case of animal-protection related arson lies six years back. The fact
of the matter is that damage to property in the name of animal protection
is extraordinarily rare in Austria compared to other countries. This is
certainly due to the great animal protection successes of recent years in
Austria. We were able to bring about change in Austria. Accordingly, the
frustration level is low in Austria, frustration levels being the main trigger
for such actions where they are high.
then am I not set free now? It's quite simple. The entire action was politically
motivated and probably directed from the top. If I were set free now, then
the public would see it as an admission that the whole action and all the
work of the Special Commission had not resulted in any useful results whatsoever.
So I have to remain in this cell and slowly starve, so that the Minister
of the Interior can save face. It wouldn't surprise me if it were being
planned to set us free during the decisive EuroCup games in the hopes of
avoiding press coverage.
scandal cannot be tolerated. I ask everyone who cares about animal protection
and human rights to take action now to prevent this crime. This kind of
police arbitrariness against NPOs is something we might recognize in dictatorships,
but not in a democracy. Please stand up strong; stand against this outrageous
injustice. My life depends on it.
Chairman of the Association against Animal Factories