Animal Protection Trial - Week 12


Trial: 31 May – 4 June 2010

Confused Hunter as Witness for Arson

This week in court a hunter testified about the burning down of a hunting cabin in 2007. He had told police in his statement that he had found the burnt down cabin on 13 November 2007. Whilst at the cabin he claimed he had seen two people cycling by and that one of them was one of the defendants. He said he recognized the defendant from a TV appearance.

Solidarity Demonstration in Lugano, Switzerland

Fire experts say however that the cause of the fire was most likely the careless use of a stove. A police officer on patrol had found the fire on 11 November 2007 at 7:09 pm. Nevertheless, the police special commission, becoming aware that one of the defendants was near the cabin 2 days later, just shifted the date of the fire to be able to claim that the denfendant is a suspect. The hunter witness had admitted later to the police that he had used the stove. Asked why he had concealed this information in his first two statements to the police, he said that he hadn't mentioned it for fear that he might be held responsible for the fire.

The witness went on to admit that on the 11 November, the date that the fire happened, he had used the cabin with fellow hunters and had heated the cabin with the stove, but he was sure that the fire in the stove was out when he left. He also admitted, though, that two years earlier, the stove had almost set the cabin on fire already and that there was never any inspection by the fire service or a cleaning of the chimney in the 10 years the stove existed.

According to an anonymous letter received by the insurance company the witness had been celebrating with other hunters in the cabin into the night hours when the stove overheated. The witness claimed no knowledge of this letter.

The unreliability of this witness's testimony was debated intensely in the courtroom.

Socialist Party calls for change to section 278a of the criminal code

Outside of the court proceedings this week the socialist party (SPÖ) announced in a press release that they want to change section 278a to prevent its misuse against NGOs. Johannes Jarolim said “Animal campaigners must not be allowed to be smashed with the same legal hammer as organised crime operations.” Jarolim wants a change in the law before the defendants in the animal protection trial are being convicted.

The press release is in connection with a parliamentary hearing set for 1 July 2010 to discuss and tighten Austrian anti-terrorism laws. Jarolim went on to say that “parliament cannot ignore addressing the problems with the poorly defined 278a law during a hearing concerning anti-terrorism laws.”

The Socialists have the majority in the socialist – conservative coalition government.


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© Keith Mann