Update On Austrian Trial



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, were also investigated. It was recently decided that three further activists would also face trial on the same charges, meaning that 13 defendants will now face trial.

Two of the activists who are 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 this Tuesday March 2nd, 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 this 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.

We will keep you updated about the progress of the trial, and how you can help.

We are holding a solidarity protest this Tuesday 2nd March, at the Austrian Embassy in London in support of the Austrian activists on the opening day of their trial. It's part of a global day of Action, see below.

Meet time and place in London: 11am at the Austrian Embassy in Belgrave Square, SW1, tube: Hyde Park Corner or Victoria.


Contact on the day 07899 775493

Support Austrian animal rights activists March 2 2010 – Opening hearing in §278 proceedings

An international day of action has been called to mark the commencement of the show trial against 13 Austrian animal rights activists, to increase the public pressure on the Austrian authorities and to express solidarity with the activists affected. For this day, March 2nd, actions are planned across the world. We call on all of you to organise as many actions as possible in front of Austrian embassies, consulates or other diplomatic missions.

Additionally, demonstrations are to take place in Vienna on February 27 and in Wiener Neustadt on the day of the trials opening hearing on March 2nd.

background about the case to be found at


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© Keith Mann