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Austrian Justice Scandal Continues

barnacle | 09.07.2008 21:35 | Animal Liberation | Repression

New Extension of Remand in Custody for Animal Protectionists

The District Court of Wiener Neustadt extended the remand in custody of the ten Austrian animal protectionists for a further two months on Monday 7th July 2008, because the activists refused to renounce animal protection. Their remand was extended on the grounds that there remains the risk they will perpetrate criminal offences!

Even after inspection of the numerous computers and photos that have been confiscated, not one single substantiating charge has been added and many of the existing charges that made the strong impression of having been fabricated have already been dropped by the Chief Public Prosecutor. Nevertheless, the authorities insist on further remanding the animal protectionists in custody.

**Legal animal protection work put forward as grounds

The judge presents as grounds for the extension that there is both legal and illegal animal protection work, so it is to be expected that those who work legally on animal protection must also know about the illegal activities.

This is only one of the hair-raising arguments that have resulted in ten innocent people being further robbed of their freedoms.

This is particularly absurd in Martin Balluch’s case: He was evidently asked if he would want to remain as chairman of the Association Against Animal Factories (VGT) if he were released. He naturally answered with “yes.” The court apparently considers this evidence of a risk that he will perpetrate criminal offences, and has used it to serve as further justification for his extended remand in custody.

Stefan Traxler, legal counsel to four of the accused commented, “The extension of the remand in custody is scandalous and completely excessive. Not only is there still no substantial evidence for criminal offences, but at these review proceedings once again files were referred to which defence counsel has no access to.”

**Further files that amount to nothing

The new parts of files which were released by the Public Prosecutor last Friday contain no new counts of indictment, instead they indicate a surveillance operation of immense proportions.

For years, telephone calls were listened in on, entrances to private apartments put under video surveillance, individuals observed, and homing devices were even placed on cars.

Apart from the unbelievable cost of such an operation, what is most interesting is that the authorities are unable to find evidence of any criminal offences despite the incredible lengths they went to. The only conclusion that this warrants is that the operation was carried out on a hunch and the accusations are simply wrong.

Still the costs must be somehow justified, so ten animal protectionists must pay the price, so to speak. More “confiscations of computers” have been announced. How far do the authorities really want to go? It seems that the twenty-four controversial search operations have produced nothing of relevance, yet the authorities still intend to continue - in the hope that somewhere they will uncover something incriminating that in retrospect could justify the measures they took?!

**Awaiting the decision of the Regional Appeal Court

A complaint against the remand in custody was sent to the Regional Appeal Court in Vienna (Oberlandesgericht) some weeks ago and a decision is to be expected by the end of the week. It is to be hoped that this decision will reinstate faith in justice and the rule of law in Austria.

**Upcoming events:

- By the end of this week, Friday 11 July: Decision of the Regional Appeal Court in Vienna on the complaint against the remand in custody.

- 8 September 2008: The next scheduled review of the remand in custody.

- 21 July 2008: After two months of remand in custody, risk of collusion is no longer valid as an argument for continued remand. This could give rise to an extraordinary review of the remand in custody.

Please write to the Austrian government ministers expressing your outrage:

Minister for the Interior; Dr. Maria Fekter
Minister for Justice; Frau Dr Berger
Federal President; Dr Heinz Fischer
Federal Chancellor; Dr Alfred Gusenbauer

Write to your MEP - they can approach their Austrian counterparts.

Two of the prisoners, Juergen and Felix, have their birthdays next week. Please write greetings to them via in time for their birthdays.

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