Animal Protection Trial: Notes from Week Three and Four

Vienna, 29/3/10

Questioning of Jürgen Faulmann, Chris Moser, Elmar Völkl and David Richter. Refusal to cooperate from other defendants

Jürgen Faulmann

At the time of his arrest Faulmann was head of international campaigns for the Austrian animal welfare organisation Four Paws. Faulmann explained at length how Four Paws uses the same strategies and has the same campaigns and target companies as VGT. Wherever the prosecution has tried to argue that VGT activities support the supposed criminal organisation, the same can be said of Four Paws, he told the judge. The fact that Four Paws has been omitted from police investigations points to the destruction of VGT being the prosecution's aim.

Faulmann is charged with liberating pigs and also for animal cruelty in connection with their liberation as the prosecution claim that 3 pigs died as a consequence of their liberation. An independent examination of the dead pigs showed however that the pigs were already dead before the liberation took place. Police tracking of Faulmann's mobile phone does place him near the farm on that day, however, only in the afternoon and very briefly. The liberation had taken place in the night, though, when the tracking of his mobile showed him to be at home. Faulmann explained to the judge that he was with a number of friends on a 5 hour long bicycle tour around his home, which explained his presence. Faulmann and his lawyer argued that if the police would behave as they were legally obliged to then they would include exonerating evidence in the files and it would become clear through the police surveillance records that Faulmann had not released the animals. Faulmann said while he sympathised with the release of the pigs it was not something he would have done because the farmer simply had rounded them up again.

Chris Moser

Chris Moser was mostly questioned by the judge about his art and the motivation behind it. The judge showed Moser different examples of his own work and asked him to comment on them. He said that like many other artists his work is deliberately provocative and intended to shock. However, there is nothing secret about his work and it is open for everyone to see on his website http:// www.radikalkunst.net

His lawyer showed the judge other examples of provocative artists and their works. Like most of the other defendants, Moser was questioned about run-ins. He explained that they are not aggressive and customers in the shop at the time of a run-in never appear frightened, rather they stop and show interest in the action.

Elmar Völkl

Apart from the judge asking him about contents of emails, Elmar Völkl was questioned exclusively about giving VGT technical assistance with computers and mobile phones. After explaining that it was his right to be guaranteed a secular hearing he demanded that the crucifix hanging on the wall behind the judge be removed. This request was not respected by the judge.

On explaining why he is moved to be concerned about animals the judge interrupted him saying that the court was not interested in what actually happens to animals rather what he thinks about what should happen to animals and how to achieve that. This comment from the judge again indicates how the trial is an attempt to criminalise opinions rather than solve crimes.

Völkl told the judge that he had never thought it possible that he as an innocent person could be brought to court in a case like this. To this the judge responded spontaneously that she too never thought that she would hear a case like this!

Völkl went on to detail that there are 4500 cases of damage to property a year in Austria. According to the prosecution nearly 20 of these cases are related to animal protection. It is therefore obvious that the case against the defendants is politically motivated. In addition there are the minutes of the meeting where the police special commission was formed which were leaked to the Green Party. The minutes refer to the fact that police stress that no connection between offences and VGT exists, but still the Home Office insisted that police were to do everything in their power to stop VGT demonstrations and to step up investigations. Asked why he recommended others to encrypt their emails, Völkl recounted an incident from 2003 whereby a media action was being organised to expose a farm where pigs were routinely being illegally chained to the floor. The police however, phoned on the day before the action to say that they knew about it. This incident led Völkl to be of the opinion that encryption was important. The judge said that the court found this understandable.

David Richter

VGT campaigner David Richter's questioning centred around email correspondence. He was not however questioned about “radical” content but rather about emailing people asking them to help out at information tables and come to demonstrations. The judge also seemed most interested in establishing whether or not demonstrations were a disturbance to the public. The judge asked him if he knew what OGPI is. He said it was an umbrella website for all anti-fur campaigns in German speaking countries, especially Germany. In principle he thought it was a good idea if VGT actions were also present on the website. The judge read from a long list of websites she had found via a Google search of OGPI. A defence lawyer protested at this saying that a Google search of the judge's own name came up with 9080 hits. Yes, said the judge, but hopefully none with an ALF connection. To which the lawyer replied that there were indeed 4360 hits for a search of the judge's name and ALF! The public were in hysterics and the judge shouted angrily that her line of questioning was justified.

When asked who he thought might be responsible for damage to property and the use of stink bombs in fur shops David Richter said that it certainly wasn't anything to do with the VGT and described how these offences have only caused problems for his legal campaigning against the shops and that he would have to be completely insane to have done it himself.

No Cooperation

A number of the defendants refused to cooperate with their questioning, instead giving a statement to the judge explaining that their refusal was based on the fact that there was no evidence connecting them to any crime and that they were being forced to prove their innocence rather than the prosecution having to prove their guilt. This went against the principle of being “innocent until proven guilty”.

At each of their statements there was loud and enthusiastic applause from the public which made the judge furious, so much so that she instructed a police officer to pay special attention to which individuals were responsible for disturbing the court.

http://www.vgt.at/presse/news/2010/news20100329m_en.php

 

Related Articles:

From Dusk 'til Dawn
An Insider's View of the Growth of the Animal Liberation Movement

© Keith Mann
puppypincher@yahoo.co.uk