Austrian Trial Week Eight

10/5/10

The Press

The press this week have reported on the long drawn out nature of the trial and the distinct lack of any evidence against the defendants coming to light. Reports also reminded the public of the tax payers' money which has been and continues to be sunk into this case. Other reports focused on the bizarre and often deeply worrying happenings inside the courtroom. One journalist compiled a list of quotes and events – the majority of which appear in these and preceding notes. This week also saw the head of Amnesty International Austria criticising the trial in an online interview with one of the country's leading newspapers.

Judge's decision to withdraw linguistic statement

The judge again adjourned her decision to withdraw Dr Schweiger's statement and the decision to allow a second linguistic statement from the defence.

Media spokesperson for Kleider Bauer

The questioning of Kleider Bauer's media spokesperson was conducted by the judge in a separate room in the court building. The questioning was shown on a screen in real-time in the courtroom. The reason for this unusual procedure was that the spokesperson claimed that she “felt mentally unable to testify in front of the defendants”.

Before leaving the courtroom to conduct the private questioning, the judge told the court that this witness would be questioned about two incidents. Firstly about damage to her car in 2007. The judge showed photos to the court of the car where white marks could be seen on the paint work and the tyres had been punctured. Police had found fingerprints on the car, but they didn't match to any of the defendants.

The second incident was a legally registered demonstration consisting of 8 people outside the Kleider Bauer central office in 2008. Four of the defendants from the organisation BAT were, according to the records of the bugged phone calls, present at this demonstration and one of them had registered the demonstration with the authorities. The spokesperson had driven through the demonstration and the demonstrators had allegedly shouted and pummelled with their fists on her car. Police could find no damage although fingerprints taken from the car fitted to some of the BAT defendants. The witness claimed that these incidents from 2 years ago were still causing her to experience anxiety.

Threatening e-mails?

The judge then showed what she referred to as threatening e-mails, which had been received by the spokesperson. All the e-mails were from German animal organisations and signed by name. The e-mails were, without exception, all polite. The following is a typical example:

Dear Ms Firouz
I am horrified to find out that your company still sells real fur, in other words; animal suffering. Why don't you follow the lead of many other large retailers and stock fake fur? In this way it is possible to have beauty and a clear conscience.
Kind Regards
D. Knauer

As she left the courtroom, the judge shook her finger at those present and said that they were to keep quiet while she was away.

First contact

The witness proceeded to tell the judge that her first contact to anti-fur campaigners was when one of the defendants from VGT had written asking that Kleider Bauer opt out of selling fur. The e-mail stated that the company had 14 days to respond before demonstrations in front of stores would begin. Later in the proceedings this defendant denied that he had made such a call with a time limit. He had phoned the company to find out who he could speak to about the selling of fur and he had been given the spokesperson's number. He had then phoned her and spoken with her about fur production.

The witness told the court that 14 days after this initial contact protest mail began to arrive. She had passed all e-mails on to her boss, but in the company there had never been any question of agreeing to stop selling fur. The defence pointed out that the spokesperson's business and private contact details could be found easily online and wanted to know whether she herself had put them online. The witness answered yes.

The judge wanted to know whether there had been any telephone contact with campaigners. In the beginning she had spoken to the VGT defendant who had written the initial e-mail. The witness also reported occasionally receiving heavy breathing phone calls during the night.

Demonstration

During her questioning about the demonstration the witness described how a female protester had addressed her by name and handed her a leaflet and had wanted to talk with her. The witness took the leaflet, but didn't enter into conversation. The leaflet was read out to the court. Its contents addressed Kleider Bauer employees. It acknowledged that many employees were against fur and asked that these employees discussed the matter with their fellow colleagues and employer. It was clear to those listening that the leaflet was in no way abusive or threatening. Asked by the judge whether she found the leaflet threatening the witness replied that she found everything absolutely threatening. Asked to be more precise, the witness said she meant she found the attempt to get Kleider Bauer to stop selling fur threatening.

The defence asked her to draw a sketch of the demonstration. This showed the entrance to the central office with the protesters in front. The witness's car was parked on the street behind the protesters. The witness had left the building, walked through the protesters, had got into her car and then driven back through the demonstration. The defence asked the witness via the judge why she hadn't avoided the demonstration by driving around the protesters. She answered that there were too many people. The defence pointed out that the witness had told police that she had observed the demonstration for 3 hours from inside the building. “Why then, if she had felt so threatened, did she go alone to her car and drive through the protesters?” the defence wanted to know. The judge asked how unsure she had felt when leaving the building. The witness responded that it had been her personal decision to go alone.

Defendants' comments

Defence and the defendants commented with reference to the demonstration that pummelling on a car with fists would not result in leaving finger prints. But as finger prints were found by police it would rather suggest that protesters had pushed with the palms of their hands against the car to protect themselves as the car drove through them. In addition the witness only contacted police some time after the incident had taken place and although other employees had been in the building, she had asked none of them whether they had seen anything or could provide a statement.

A defendant commented that these incidents serve to show that it is wrong to refer to animal rights and Kleider Bauer as two clearly defined opposing parties. Animal rights do not form a homogeneous group. There is not one person who is responsible for everything that happens in the name of animal rights. He himself was responsible for the VGT campaigns alone and within these campaigns nothing of a criminal nature had taken place. There had been contact to the spokesperson, but this contact had been perfectly civil.

Other witnesses

Other witnesses this week included an expert on butyric acid; the chemical responsible for the smell of stink bombs. She told the court that the substance washes out of material easily and causes hardly any lasting damage.

A shop assistant from a Kleider Bauer store described the “run in” that happened in her store as “traumatising” and the protesters as a “danger to the public”. She told the court that around 6 people had come into the store and for about 3 minutes they had scattered small leaflets around the shop floor. There was no damage, but the area had to be cleaned.

Another shop assistant said she thought fur was disgusting and most witnesses reported that demonstrations in front of the stores had been peaceful on the whole.

None of the witnesses testifying gave any evidence linking defendants to crimes and another week came to an end which had largely been spent discussing legal campaigning.

http://www.vgt.at/presse/news/2010/news20100510m_en.php

 

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

© Keith Mann
puppypincher@yahoo.co.uk