- This trial against 13 animal rights campaigners accused
of being members of a Mafia-like criminal organisation started on 2 March
2010. So far there have been 50 days spent in court and the end of this
monster trial is no where in sight. On the contrary, the court is still
only hearing witnesses from the prosecution!
and costs -
It is expected that the case will be heard until well into 2011. An increasing
number of notable legal experts and journalists openly criticise the trial,
not only condemning the initial decision to use anti-Mafia laws against
NGO campaigners, but also the treatment of the defendants in the court proceedings
and the unbelievably long duration of the trial. Aside from the cost of
such a trial for the tax payer, the defendants have been unable to work
since the trial began and can look forward to personal financial ruin incurred
through lawyers costs alone.
of evidence -
In all these hours and days in court spent listening to the prosecution's
case not one piece of evidence has been brought forward to implicate the
defendants in belonging to a criminal organisation, or indeed that such
an organisation even exists!
Many people have expressed their despair at the situation by ridiculing
the trial. Since the first day in court there have been a succession of
happenings at the court ranging from balloons with messages on them appearing
at the windows of the court room to members of the public simultaneously
adorning red clown noses while sitting in the court room's public gallery.
The court's reaction has been to fill the public gallery seats with police
cadets making it often impossible for defendants' family and friends to
watch the proceedings.
in court -
The application made to the court by one of the defendants questioning the
presence of police cadets in the public gallery angered the judge so much
that she not only turned down the application, but also had the defendant
thrown out of the court. When the defendant refused to leave she had police
manhandle him out of the court. As a result of injuries sustained during
his removal, the defendant had to spend the following day in hospital.
to cross-examine witnesses refused –
This month saw the head of the special police unit responsible for the investigations
and his second in command in the witness box. They were unable to present
any evidence against the defendants and mostly replied to questions that
they either couldn't remember anything or that they would have to refer
to the files. When the defence asked why, after such intensive investigations,
the unit was unable to present any clear evidence, the head of the police
unit answered that the accused operate in such a professional way that it
is not possible to uncover them. Shockingly the judge refused defendants'
their right to further cross examine these extremely important witnesses.
The defence has demanded that these witnesses be called to testify again.
court was in recess throughout August.
computer expert – Testifying
in court, the police special unit's computer expert said that he had never
dealt with so many encrypted e-mails. Although police were unable to crack
pgp and truecrypt, they were able to crack Window's EFS encryption and retrieve
deleted e-mails from defendants' computer trash folders. Apart from the
occasional e-mail from the mid 90s written by Dr Balluch to his father describing
demonstrations in the UK where damage to property had taken place, nothing
of relevance to the trial could be reported.
same computer expert went on to testify that the texts previously referred
to by the prosecution's linguistic expert as having been written by Dr Balluch
were nowhere to be found on Balluch's computer. The computer expert informed
the court that these texts had been located on a VGT computer belonging
to former VGT director Franz Plank. The texts were written between 1994
and 1997, therefore preceding Dr Balluch's arrival in Austria.
Much of this case rests on the prosecution being able to prove that a structured
criminal organisation exists in which the defendants cooperate with each
other. However, the newest report from the special police unit (yes, police
continue to investigate as you read this update) on contact between defendants'
respective groups shows that not only has there been no cooperation, but
that, on the contrary, there is a long history of outright hostility between
phone tracking – A
further police expert presented data to the court on the location of defendants'
mobile phones during times when criminal offences were committed by unknown
persons. This data provided exonerating evidence for the defendants, but
as with so much exonerating evidence in this trial, it is nowhere to be
found in the prosecution files.
charged to read prosecution case files – In a bizarre move this week
the court presented one of the defendants with an invoice for €28 for
making mobile phone photos of pages from the case files. The files exceed
200,000 pages and in order to get access the defendants have to pay the
court €1 a page for paper photocopies. A way around this is to use
a mobile phone to photograph the pages relevant to the day’s proceedings,
but now the court is trying to insist that 50 cents must be paid for each
photo made by the defendants themselves!