Gathering in Paris, France
week saw three detectives from the special commission testifying in court.
What they told the judge revealed many shocking inconsistencies which the
defence attempted to address in their questioning. However, the judge prevented
this by not allowing many of the defences' questions.
and house raids based on assumptions
that in October 2007 police were already planning home raids and remand
prison for a number of activists. The police reports show that Dr Balluch
and VGT were the main suspects. However, this was based on nothing more
than the assumption that VGT possibly provided a cover for people committing
offences, there was no proof or any evidence. And Dr Balluch was considered
the main suspect only because he was president of VGT.
evidence – irrelevant?
Asked about investigative
results, such as DNA tests and Mobile phone and vehicle tracking, which
would clear the defendants of any involvement in offences, the detectives
claimed that the results were in their reports but not in the final police
reports, since evidence was only considered relevant, if it provided evidence
The judge saw
fit to end this line of questioning indicating that exonerating evidence
was irrelevant for the 278a law as the defendants are not charged with committing
any offence, but merely be a member of a criminal organisation by supporting
it through legal means. She instead busied herself with asking the detectives
whether they were of the opinion that the listed offences had been carried
out by a “freaked out individual” acting alone with no connection
to campaigns, campaigners or animal groups or whether an organisation was
behind the offences. Observers of the proceedings, those few who were not
trainee police officers ordered to be there of course, were dismayed at
this question as it can only reflect the judge's opinion that there can
only be one or the other. This is not the reality of a normal protest movement.
A good example of this are the so called “threatening” e-mails
sent to fur retailers. They are standard requests to a company asking them
to stop selling fur. Thousands of people send such emails. These people
may or may not know others who have also sent the same or similar emails,
they may or may not be involved in other campaigns, they may or may not
know people who have committed offences. They may not even know this! This
is the reality of modern protest movements. And this is the danger of the
278a law that conscientious individuals and organisations, such as Amnesty
International, have warned of all along. This independent judge however,
chooses to ignore this or is simply not aware of it.
The state prosecution
service in Vienna does acknowledge this reality: In reply to the hundreds
of self indictments of 278a that they had received from individuals who
said that they too had taken part in campaigns etc the state prosecution
service answered that the self indictment would not be admitted because
their actions did not implicate them in any crimes.
This begs the
question of why the courts in Wiener Neustadt, where the trial is taking
place, do not also take this view. After all, the Austrian constitution
demands that laws be consistently applied to all citizens equally. If they
were, would the defendants be standing trial?
of mind or criminal organisation?
the detectives also showed up inconsistencies about their description of
what the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) actually amounts to. Many references
to the ALF in the files make clear that The ALF has no membership and that
it is a state of mind. Other references to the ALF are used to justify the
case for the existence of a criminal organisation. The same can be said
about the commission's use of the word militant. On being questioned by
the defence, there was no clear definition offered as to what constitutes
militant behaviour. One is left wondering if a definition is deliberately
absent in order to refer to legal and illegal activities interchangeably.
on the linguistic statement
One of the defence
lawyers was able to bring new evidence against the linguistic statement
given by the prosecution's witness Dr Schweiger. Schweiger had told the
court that defendant Dr Balluch had “almost certainly” written
notes claiming responsibility for animal rights related offences, although
he only studies writing as a hobby and uses methods ridiculed by experts
in the field. One of Dr Schweiger's claims is that Dr Balluch uses words
that he himself has constructed from other words. The defence were able
to show that one of these very words appears in the police reports and when
questioned the testifying officer said that this word was a perfectly normal
and common word. Indeed, this word produces 21,600 results in Google! However,
as part of Schweiger's controversial method involves not using a computer,
he wouldn't have known this! The judge tried in vain to prevent this line
of questioning by the defence.
prosecution continues to proudly claim that the defendants must be the ring
leaders of the criminal organisation because animal rights related crimes
have decreased – but this is simply not the case. Just this week,
a communiqué was published on the internet, which calimed an arson
attempt at a Kleider Bauer store at the end of March (Kleider Bauer kept
it from the media) and since the beginning of the trial there have been
two incidences of damage to property to Kleider Bauer stores. The defendants
are rightly concerned that this charge is not only an attempt to make them
responsible for all offences in the past, but for those into the indefinite