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HUMAN RIGHTS SCANDAL IN AUSTRIA - NARESH KADYAN OIPA


Offbeat  (tags: off-beat, ethics, human rights abuses )


- 3223 days ago - youtube.com
<p>Today a demonstration has been arranged by the OIPA INDIA and memorandum has also been given to the HE The Ambassador of Austrian through the First Secretary here in New Delhi by the Naresh Kadyan.</p>



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Past Member (0)
Wednesday July 2, 2008, 7:16 am
Naresh Kadyan,

Representative of OIPA in India,

C-38, Rose Apartment, Prashant Vihar,

ROHINI, DELHI - 110085

His Excellency The Ambassador of Austria

The Ambassador of Austria

New Delhi.



Object: Ten animal rights workers imprisoned since May 21, 2008

July 2nd, 2008



Dear Mr Ambassador,



I respectfully request your help concerning an event that will take place this week in your country: the next evaluation of the detention of the ten animal rights activists held on remand since May 21. As you know, on that day an independent judge will decide whether the activists must remain in custody without charge.



I understand that the Ministry of Justice is monitoring the development of this case as a matter of normal supervision. In the hope that the case will be closely reviewed at the approach of the hearing, I ask you to be so kind as to submit the following questions to Dr Maria Berger. I understand that all letters cannot be answered individually but I hope that through your good offices, an answer may be possible in this case.



1) It is everyone's hope, I am sure, that the detainees will be released this week unless formal charges are filed backed by evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Failing this, I would like to know if it would be possible to release the detainees provisionally pending further proceedings. (It is rumored that the police may not have time to examine all the computers confiscated for another six months! This is a distressing idea for many people, as you can imagine.) It seems reasonable to think that in this case the course of justice would not be hampered by the provisional release of these ten people.



2) In light of the fact that the Ministry of Justice affirms that Austrian law offers a comprehensive modern system of protection for imprisoned citizens, I draw its attention to the following features of the case, asking for Dr Berger's confirmation, correction or clarification:

a) There appears to have been a lack of specificity in the search warrants issued.

b) The manner in which the police acted when making its arrests was disproportionate to the circumstances (masked, gun-carrying men breaking through doors at dawn, etc.). Does the Minister agree that this police behavior was inappropriate?

c) Not all the detainees were allowed to contact lawyers before being interrogated by the police. (This has been confirmed in writing by Mr Gerhard Pichler of the Ministry of the Interior.)

d) The specificity of the charges against the detainees was apparently not communicated to them upon their arrest.

e) The detainees and their lawyers were not promptly informed of the evidence against them. Even today – over a month after their arrest - they say that though the prosecution is legally obliged to do so, it has still not disclosed the whole file and all evidence against them, which makes it very hard for their lawyers to defend them.





3) In Dr Berger's view, do any of the points mentioned above, if confirmed in the course of her supervision of the case; constitute a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights or at least of Austrian law?



4) Regarding the suspicion that the ten detainees are members of a 'criminal organization'; does the Minister of Justice feel any skepticism over the validity or applicability to this case of Section 278a of the Austrian Criminal Code?



5) Given that people are to be assumed innocent until proved guilty and that no charges have been laid against our friends, would it be possible for the conditions of their detention to be improved? Is it normal for people on remand in Austrian prisons to be kept in a very small space with chain smokers, allowed only two showers per week, only one hour of exercise outside per day and only very brief and infrequent visits with their family and friends?



I reiterate my expression of hope that the detainees will be released this week unless evidence of their membership of a criminal organization is presented. I realize that it must be frustrating to the President of Austria and his ministers and embassies to receive thousands of letters from people who are not fully informed about the Austrian legal system. I can only say that I have done my very best to find out as much as I can about this case from all sides and to raise only questions that citizens concerned about human rights could reasonably raise.



Thank you very much for your advice in this matter.





Sincerely,

Naresh Kadyan,

OIPA -http://www.oipa.org
Representative for INDIA,
-http://www.oipa.org/oipa/news/oipaindia.html
-http://www.pfaharyana.in
-http://nareshkadyan.blogspot.com/
Mobile - +91-9813010595
- +91- 9313312099
 

Past Member (0)
Wednesday July 2, 2008, 7:19 am
Dear Mr. Kadyan,

His Excellency will not be available due to other appointments, but has asked me to contact you on his behalf. I would be ready to accept the memorandum tomorrow afternoon at 3.30pm.

Sincerely Yours,

Peter Guschelbauer


__________________________________
Peter Guschelbauer
First Secretary (Political and Press)
Embassy of Austria
EP-13 Chandergupta Marg
Chanakyapuri, New Delhi - 110 021
Tel.: +91 (0)11 2419 2700
Fax: +91 (0)11 2688 6929
E-Mail: peter.guschelbauer@bmeia.gv.at
 

Past Member (0)
Wednesday July 2, 2008, 7:22 am
Press release signed by over 170 organisations from 32 countries

July 2nd, 2008

HUMAN RIGHTS SCANDAL IN AUSTRIA

Non-governmental organisations express concern about what may be a case of state repression of social activism.

On 21st May 2008 at 6 a.m., heavily armed police officers from an elite unit stormed 21 homes and the offices of a number of non-governmental organisations in Austria. Breaking their way in, the masked police surrounded frightened civilians in their beds at gun point. Ten people were arrested and have been held in custody without specific charge since that day. Despite the statement by the Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior that "The measures taken by the police (…) were in no way directed against animal welfare or animal welfare organisations", the removal of computers, documents and other assets has effectively crippled some of the organisations involved.

Those asking the media to look at this case draw attention to the fact that Amnesty International (1) and the Austrian Green Party have reacted strongly, questioning police methods and the treatment of detainees, particularly the absence of actionable evidence justifying "strong suspicion" (dringender Tatverdacht) or the "reason (or grounds)" (Haftgrund) for the arrests. Detainee accounts of what has happened are alarming: see, for example, this appeal sent out by Martin Balluch on June 9 (2).

In recent years, milestone reforms in animal law have been achieved in Austria including bans on fur farms, battery cages for hens and the use of wild animals in circuses.

Should those who have achieved advances that are an example to the rest of the world be blamed for all the unsolved cases of damage to property in Austria over the last eleven years?

"All citizens have the right to actively stand up for or demonstrate against something. It is particularly important to stand up for animal rights because animals cannot stand up for themselves. People must do it for them. Animals, like all the defenceless, rely on this protection." (Elfriede Jelinek, Nobel Prize for literature 2004) (3)

Should organisations acting for animals that have always operated peacefully and within the law have their functioning hampered by the seizure of their material?

The undersigned express deep concern at what appears to be an attempt to criminalise the animal advocacy movement and to stifle the political freedom of those involved in it.

Further Information in German and English is available on the website of the Association Against Animal Factories (Verein Gegen Tierfabriken): http://www.vgt.at/index_en.php

Contacts:
info@evana.org; diana.dc@wanadoo.fr

(1) Amnesty International statement

http://www.vgt.at/presse/news/2008/news20080605_1_en.php

(2) Appeal Martin Balluch

http://www.vgt.at/presse/news/2008/news20080613_2_en.php

(3) Elfriede Jelinek

http://www.evana.org/index.php?id=34576&lang=en


List of endorsements by more than 170 organisations from 32 countries: http://www.evana.org/index.php?id=34906&lang=en

===========

The press release is online http://www.evana.org/index.php?id=34905&lang=en
 

Past Member (0)
Wednesday July 2, 2008, 8:41 am
In the early morning hours of 21 May 2008, a concerted country-wide police operation in Austria, raided and searched the homes of 23 animal protectionists. Ten people were remanded in custody. To date no concrete or substantive grounds have been announced for those arrests and remands in custody.

I strongly protest against this course of action. Both the police operation and the remand in custody of these people are completely disproportionate. For example, doors were rammed open without warning; masked police
officers stormed homes with drawn guns. This was followed by grievous verbal and physical harassment and humiliation.

As justification for the raids, the Public Prosecutor's Office cites § 278a Austrian Penal Code (The formation of a "criminal organisation"), a paragraph, which is otherwise used solely in relation to people smuggling rings and Mafia organisations. Proof of the existence of the alleged "criminal organisation" by the authorities is still outstanding. The Public Prosecutor's Office has also not made any clear statements about the concrete connections that the detainees supposedly have with this ominous organisation.

It cannot be accepted, that a state under the rule of law remands people in custody without convincing argument. It cannot be accepted that the police confiscate computers, mobile telephones, member lists and documents on the off chance. Four Animal Protection Associations have been robbed of their functional existence in this manner. These facts are
all serious violations of civil rights.

It appears that there is an attempt to criminalise the Austrian Animal Protection and Animal Rights movement. The police operation is causing lasting damage to the image of the Animal Protection movement. By depriving the NGOs of their infrastructure and lists of potential donors, they are deprived of all chances to continue to working for and representing their concerns.

Please take on this case and commit yourself to bringing transparency to this issue before Austria's international image is seriously damaged.

Unless the Public Prosecutor is able to bring immediate proof of the serious accusations that have been made, the detainees must be released without delay!


Yours Faithfully,
Representative of OIPA in INDIA Naresh Kadyan
OIPA INDIA
ROHINI
110085 Delhi
INDIA
 

Joanna D (216)
Wednesday July 2, 2008, 10:52 am
Thank you Naresh!!!!!!!! Thank you for all what you've done for the activists!!
 

Joanna D (216)
Wednesday July 2, 2008, 11:04 am
We hope they will be free soon as:
Vienna, 2nd July 2008
Chief Public Prosecutor: Breaking Down of Doors was Unlawful
The first response from the chief public prosecutor concerning the objection filed against the house searches has now been received by the defence lawyers. The verdict from the higher regional court concerning this matter is expected next week

It says in the statement dated 25th June from the Chief Public Prosecutor that the violent manner in which the doors to homes were opened in the course of the numerous house searches is to be considered as unlawful.

The statement goes on to say that this constitutes a violation of the victims’ rights as set out in sec 121, paragraph 1 StPO (Austrian Code of Criminal Procedure).

Concerning many other points of criticism, for example:

* Refusing access to a trusted third party,
* Refusing to allow telephone calls to legal representatives
* Being held in one room during searches
* Methods used in the carrying out of searches (drawn weapons, intimidation and humiliation)
* The securing of items not included in the directive
* The obtaining of biological traces from non-suspects

there have apparently been no statements from the criminal police. It is therefore not possible for the Chief Public Prosecutor to give a response.

In one case, the Chief Prosecutor confirms that the decision to allow the search warrant for a particular address was unlawful. The Chief Prosecutor is of the opinion that, in this case, there were insufficient grounds for suspicion to warrant a search.

Harald Balluch, Managing Director of VGT: “the first hopeful sign in this affair. Because the Public Prosecution themselves openly regard the actions of the executive in such a critical light, and are even of the opinion that a court order issued was unlawful, we hope that Higher Regional Court will follow this line of argument. In addition we hope that the other points of criticism will also be conceded“.

But please keep writting emails and forwarding the petition:

http://www.vgt.at/actionalert/repression/petition/index_en.php
 

Davida P (283)
Wednesday July 2, 2008, 11:04 am
Thank you for bringing more attention to this issue.
 

Joanna D (216)
Wednesday July 2, 2008, 11:10 am
From previous news:
Vienna, 30th June 2008
Austrian Arrests, New Development: Public Prosecution Fabricates Arson Attack
In an attempt to justify remand custody and draconian police measures, a hunting cabin, which burnt down as a result of an over heating stove, was used against the animal protections as an accusation of arson

This scandal comes just weeks after it was revealed that the prosecution falsified a statement of a crown witness

On May 21 2008 masked and armed officers of the Austrian elite squad WEGA broke into homes and offices of NGO workers and organisations at the crack of dawn. Since that day, 10 people arrested in the raids have been detained in remand custody. One of the detainees, president of VGT (Association against Factory Farms) Dr Martin Balluch has, also since that day, been on hunger strike. He is presently being artificially fed. A string of human rights violations against these animal protectionists has caused outrage and strong criticism towards Austrian authorities from the international community and concerned Austrians. The authorities claim, and therefore in turn the Austrian media as well, that the animal protectionists are responsible for an arson attack.

This accusation of arson came as a surprise to animal protection circles as, especially in recent years, there has been no report of arson with an animal rights connection in Austria. In the prosecution file, withheld until now from the defense, the worst suspicions can be confirmed: The allegedly animal rights motivated arson attack was in fact a hunting cabin fire caused by hunters themselves as they let a stove overheat. The public prosecution have bent the facts in order to provide a reason for mistreating and imprisoning innocent animal protectionists!
Following Facts can be found in the Police Files:

The hunting cabin burnt down on 11.11.2007 at approximately 7 p.m. The prosecution states that it happened between 11 and 13.11.2007.
The time of the fire was deliberately extended to 13.11 because, according to the surveillance reports, the VGT president Dr Martin Balluch was in the same area on that day. The deliberate time extension thus provided an opportunity to construe a suspicion. However, the public prosecution failed to disclose that Dr Balluch was in the area in order to document illegal pheasant enclosures and that he was in constant Telephone contact with the state appointed animal welfare ombudsman throughout the day. The pheasant enclosures were indeed reported to the authorities on the very next day.
The public prosecution claims that the arson was animal rights motivated, despite the fact that the fire expert assessing the incident stated that the probable cause of the fire was the overheating of a non-insulated stove placed against a wooden wall. There was no indication of arson.
Hunter lies in an effort to protect himself

During the first police interview the hunter responsible for the hunting area in which the cabin was located, told police that he did not light the stove on the day of the fire. Only a few days later, the same hunter admitted to police that he had lied. Out of fear that he would be made responsible for the burning down of the cabin, the hunter admitted that he, along with other hunters had indeed lit the stove on the same day as the fire. He told police that the fire had been burning fiercely for hours before the cabin caught fire.
One hunter belonging to this particular group even wrote to the insurance company and emphasised “the fire was not caused by a third party as claimed (this would ensure that the insurance company would pay), it was instead caused by hunting staff belonging to the hunting society, […] who heated the wood stove too fiercely.“
In order to make the animal protectionists appear responsible, a letter claiming responsibility was fabricated and mentioned in the police files. No such letter exisits. The fire was mentioned only in an animal welfare magazine.
Defense lawyer for Dr Martin Balluch, Mag. Stefan Traxler: “It begs belief how the facts have been twisted and fabricated here in an attempt to accuse my client. But, now it’s out in the open: there was no arson attack. I therefore expect that my client be released immediately and that his confiscated property and that belonging to the organisation VGT be returned without delay. We will be suing the persons responsible for damages.“
 

Hans L (958)
Wednesday July 2, 2008, 11:12 am
Thank you for your help! I hope that they will be free this week! The Green Party in Austria will be very nasty and shoot sharp questions at the new minister lets hope that she realy is about law and order! Than they should be free immediately!
 

Joanna D (216)
Wednesday July 2, 2008, 11:14 am
For Martin Balluch today is 43day of hunger strike!!
Thanks to actions like those taken by Naresh the Human Rights Scandal in Austria becomes more and more known - media, like BIG BBC are silent!! Shame!!
 

Alf I (246)
Wednesday July 2, 2008, 11:25 am
Thankyou Naresh for showing India Austria's shameful behavior. Well done.
 

Tatiana Kostanian (96)
Wednesday July 2, 2008, 12:30 pm
Absolutely Naresh, your kindness in sending your letter immediately has been so very important to the ten and case at hand. I agree with Joanna D, we need to make this known to all media. Thank you again most respectfully.
 

Past Member (0)
Wednesday July 2, 2008, 12:40 pm
Nareshji
pranam
may Shiva demand full accounting in austria
well done
 

Past Member (0)
Wednesday July 2, 2008, 1:20 pm

Thank you, Naresh.
 

Joycey B (750)
Wednesday July 2, 2008, 4:00 pm
You are the best. Thanks Naresh.
 

Louise L (48)
Wednesday July 2, 2008, 5:29 pm
I can't believe that those animal activists are still imprisoned! Thanks for bringing this to our attention,Naresh.
 

Sheila G (267)
Wednesday July 2, 2008, 7:13 pm
This is fabulous, thank you and friends with you, the media should be ashamed that YOU have shown more on this than they have.
 

Kathy Chadwell (354)
Thursday July 3, 2008, 4:13 am
Thank you Naresh for standing up to this nazi fascism we're seeing more and more of. So many are to cowardly to open their mouths these days.
GodBless you.
 

Pam F (221)
Thursday July 3, 2008, 5:36 am
Well done,Naresh!
 

Trudi Reijnders (242)
Thursday July 3, 2008, 10:37 am
Thank you so much Naresh and all the other wonderful Indian people standing up for the Austrian activists.
 

Joanna D (216)
Thursday July 3, 2008, 11:46 am
Letter from Martin Balluch
Message to the international animal rights movement regarding my hunger strike on my 43rd day of incarceration I suppose you will know by now that 43 days ago, Austrian police undertook 28 armed raids on homes of animal rights activist and on offices of 7 animal rights groups all over Austria. 10 people were put on remand, and still are, one of them being me. Because these police actions were completely out of any proportion and no well – founded reasons for the raids and arrests were forthcoming, I immediately went on hunger strike. I used my last means of protest against this unbelievable level of police terror and state repression. Initially, I had no access to fruit juice or sugared tea, and then only after days of no food or drink other than water, I felt already nauseous and weak. I had to move slowly to avoid a blackout. After a week on hunger strike I was given sugar and fruit juices, which I chose to drink. The prison doctor did warn me that a water only hunger strike very rapidly leads to brain function impairment. As I need my brains to defend myself and to show these terrorists for what they are I chose to drink juice. I still lost weight very rapidly, about 1.5 kg a day. On my 13th day of the hunger strike – I was down 18kg by then – I was moved to the hospital wing of the prison. Actually, I was moved from Wiener Neustadt prison to the one where I am now in Vienna because this prison has a hospital wing. On the 15th day of my hunger strike I passed out for the first time. From then onwards, I would have to stay in bed. Since on day 17 I was to be put before a judge to decide whether my prison stay was to be extended, I ate 2 pieces of fruit and a muesli bar in the morning, so that I could travel. I immediately felt a lot better. But the court appearance was a farce. The judge had her decision ready before I entered the court room, and – contrary to the law – she did not allow me to give a statement to my defence. Indeed, till today, neither police nor prosecutor nor the judge have questioned me at all or given me the opportunity to give a statement, although my solicitors have been requesting this for weeks! After the court, I was moved back to the prison hospital and resumed hunger strike. Over the next days I felt a lot stronger, although I had only eaten once and such a little bit, but from day 22 onwards, my state of health deteriorated. On the 25, authorities started to force feed me. I allowed them to do that without physical resistance. The force feeding prevented me from dying. However, it does not stop the deterioration of my health, it only slows the process down. Doctors informed me that they did not have proper vegan food to force feed me with. On day 36 I reached a new low point, which gave me near death experiences. I had this strong impression of being suspend above a complete void. I was about to fall into it. I pictured my situation as being up to the neck in a crevice, standing on such thin ice that could not hold my weight much longer. I could not get out anymore by myself. My solicitor had appealed the outrageous decision of the judge and I was asked by him to give a statement to support my case. I needed to concentrate. Also, in a few days I have my second court appearance, which would have been impossible in my state. So, on day 39 I decided to try and bring some strength back into my body by eating a little. Since I was still on hunger strike, I was given no food into my cell at the hospital wing. I managed to take a little orange from the hospital kitchen bin, and I tried to eat it. It was terrible. I just couldn’t. I could not swallow properly – I just sucked on it – and I got unbelievable stomach pains and had diarrhoea. I asked to speak to the chief doctor of the hospital wing. Incidentally, this guy is a paid up member of our animal rights group! He said to me that now he is a criminal too – because he is funding a criminal organisation. And he supported me. If I was to defend myself and appear in court, I needed to get back to health at least somewhat. We set up a plan, and from day 40 onwards, I had a little ground up fruit and porridge with soya milk. What a strange feeling to have food in my mouth after such a long time! And one little spoon full of porridge filled up my stomach completely. Apparently, it had shrunk to the size of a pea. In any case, I am at the movement slowly moving back to being alive. I still cannot eat much at all. I am also not hungry. And I have not been on a toilet for 43 days and still have 24kg less body weight than before my arrest. My hunger strike has not ended yet, though. I will go to court and defend myself. If the new judge and the appeal court both decide to keep me in prison, I will have to make a decision. Either I will stop my hunger strike, or I will resume it and drink water only. Nothing inbetween anymore. In the latter case I will actively refuse being forcibly fed too, as long as I am able to. Those responsible for this police terror shall face the consequences. The prosecution and police have produced absolutely no evidence against me whatsoever, although they had agents in our group and listened to all my phone calls, read all my mails, filmed the entrance of my home and followed me around. So they tried to fabricate evidence. They went to a person, who they know had animosities against me, and tried to push him to say that I am likely to have committed arson. He has gone public with that and revealed how police have tried to influence him and put words in his mouth. Police also made up an arson attack and tried to blame it on me. Although their own expert found no evidence of arson, but rather that it was an accident with a poorly insulated oven, and that the owner indeed had been careless. Police fabricated an animal rights communiqué claiming responsibility for the arson
 

Hans L (958)
Thursday July 3, 2008, 12:36 pm
We will need much more pressure or they will be in prison as long as they can hold them!

We were so encouraged over the last few days with the strong statement from the socialist Jarolim and of course Peter Pilz from the Greens. There were soli demos all over the world yesterday, as you know. Thank you to all organisers and attendees!



In Austria we had demos in most all major cities and this morning by 11.30 we had already completed three different demos: a zebra crossing banner and flyer demo, a demo outside the office of the guy responsible for not giving the organistions their property back, and then a colourful action on the main square in Vienna where we let passers by sign cards supporting the 10 attached to balloons which were then let free. This got a lot of press.



The chief prosecutor responded quickly to Pilz yesterday:

http://portal. gmx.net/de/ themen/oesterrei ch/panorama/ 6211856-Oberstaa tsanwaltschaft- glaubt-weiter- an-kriminelle- Organisation, cc=0000082661000 62118561foPJb. html



It basically says that although the chief prosecutor has found some points in the operation to be unlawful, they are in favour of extending the remand and claim that there grounds for the charge of para 278a "criminal organisation" to justify this.



And what are these grounds! Well, as always, they are not mentioned!



The verdict on the appeal against the imprisonment is due today or tomorrow. This verdict is made by the High Regional Court.
 

Past Member (0)
Friday July 4, 2008, 6:07 am
Thanx all my dear friends, Now I needs up dates.......
 

Past Member (0)
Friday July 4, 2008, 6:19 am
Vienna, 4th July 2008
MP Peter Pilz Visits Martin Balluch in Prison
Directly followed by a press conference outside the entrance to the prison

Today MP Peter Pilz visited DDr Martin Balluch in the Josefstadt prison in Vienna. He described how he had to pass through three security checks before being able to speak to Martin over a telephone and see him through a glass screen. Their conversation was overheard and documented by a prison official. At a press conference directly after the visit Mr Pilz told the press that he now had an inkling as to what it’s like to be locked up on remand.

The opportunity to put questions to the Green Party Minister was seized by members of the press.

MP Pilz’s main contention is that, despite the Public Prosecution’s accusations collapsing like a house of cards, so much so that not much is left over apart from the ominous paragraph 278a (criminal organisation), the 10 animal protectionists are still imprisoned.

According to paragraph 278a of the Austrian Criminal Code a criminal organisation is defined as one which has planned and carried out recurrent crimes of a severe nature. These offences must carry at least a penalty of 3 - 4 years. What is being executed here falls into the normal range of civil disobedience, typical of NGO work. As a result, Pilz insists that the legally appropriate approach to this situation be taken: the immediate release of all 10 detainees.
The remand custody is being justified with risk of collusion and risk of repetition of offences. However, as the significant accusations, and as a result, also the accusation of paragraph 278a no longer apply, the risk of collusion can also no longer be upheld. The same goes for risk of repetition of offences which, without a criminal organisation can also not be justified.
“In my 21 years of being an MP, I’ve never experienced anything like this!”

MP Pilz called for the Minister of Justice, Frau Dr. Berger, to bring the Public Prosecution’s unlawful proceedings to an end and to prevent the continuation of these serious human rights violations.

The imprisonment is illegal!
 

Hans L (958)
Friday July 4, 2008, 6:42 am
How can we use the political stress? Can it be used to get them free?

The green party is the only party fighting for the activists!
So who do we help?

The SPOE Minister of justice is just watching....doing nothing for the reputation of Austria in the world...

OEVP who has caused this will do everything to defend the decissions that the minister and all the others have made.....



 

Past Member (0)
Friday July 4, 2008, 9:51 am
We can take up this matter with the UNO directly..... if it is possible, our activists are suffered a lot for nothing. We must do something now, there may be a provisions for quashing the impugned orders of arrest in the superior court in Austria.
 

Past Member (0)
Friday July 4, 2008, 6:50 pm


Message to the international animal rights movement regarding my hunger strike on my 43rd day of incarceration

I suppose you will know by now that 43 days ago, Austrian police undertook 28 armed raids on homes of animal rights activist and on offices of 7 animal rights groups all over Austria. 10 people were put on remand, and still are, one of them being me. Because these police actions were completely out of any proportion and no well – founded reasons for the raids and arrests were forthcoming, I immediately went on hunger strike. I used my last means of protest against this unbelievable level of police terror and state repression.

Initially, I had no access to fruit juice or sugared tea, and then only after days of no food or drink other than water, I felt already nauseous and weak. I had to move slowly to avoid a blackout. After a week on hunger strike I was given sugar and fruit juices, which I chose to drink. The prison doctor did warn me that a water only hunger strike very rapidly leads to brain function impairment. As I need my brains to defend myself and to show these terrorists for what they are I chose to drink juice.

I still lost weight very rapidly, about 1.5 kg a day. On my 13th day of the hunger strike – I was down 18kg by then – I was moved to the hospital wing of the prison. Actually, I was moved from Wiener Neustadt prison to the one where I am now in Vienna because this prison has a hospital wing.

On the 15th day of my hunger strike I passed out for the first time. From then onwards, I would have to stay in bed.

Since on day 17 I was to be put before a judge to decide whether my prison stay was to be extended, I ate 2 pieces of fruit and a muesli bar in the morning, so that I could travel. I immediately felt a lot better. But the court appearance was a farce. The judge had her decision ready before I entered the court room, and – contrary to the law – she did not allow me to give a statement to my defence. Indeed, till today, neither police nor prosecutor nor the judge have questioned me at all or given me the opportunity to give a statement, although my solicitors have been requesting this for weeks!

After the court, I was moved back to the prison hospital and resumed hunger strike. Over the next days I felt a lot stronger, although I had only eaten once and such a little bit, but from day 22 onwards, my state of health deteriorated.

On the 25, authorities started to force feed me. I allowed them to do that without physical resistance.

The force feeding prevented me from dying. However, it does not stop the deterioration of my health, it only slows the process down. Doctors informed me that they did not have proper vegan food to force feed me with.

On day 36 I reached a new low point, which gave me near death experiences. I had this strong impression of being suspend above a complete void. I was about to fall into it. I pictured my situation as being up to the neck in a crevice, standing on such thin ice that could not hold my weight much longer. I could not get out anymore by myself.

My solicitor had appealed the outrageous decision of the judge and I was asked by him to give a statement to support my case. I needed to concentrate. Also, in a few days I have my second court appearance, which would have been impossible in my state.

So, on day 39 I decided to try and bring some strength back into my body by eating a little. Since I was still on hunger strike, I was given no food into my cell at the hospital wing. I managed to take a little orange from the hospital kitchen bin, and I tried to eat it. It was terrible. I just couldn’t. I could not swallow properly – I just sucked on it – and I got unbelievable stomach pains and had diarrhoea.

I asked to speak to the chief doctor of the hospital wing.

Incidentally, this guy is a paid up member of our animal rights group! He said to me that now he is a criminal too – because he is funding a criminal organisation. And he supported me. If I was to defend myself and appear in court, I needed to get back to health at least somewhat. We set up a plan, and from day 40 onwards, I had a little ground up fruit and porridge with soya milk.

What a strange feeling to have food in my mouth after such a long time! And one little spoon full of porridge filled up my stomach completely. Apparently, it had shrunk to the size of a pea. In any case, I am at the movement slowly moving back to being alive. I still cannot eat much at all. I am also not hungry. And I have not been on a toilet for 43 days and still have 24kg less body weight than before my arrest. My hunger strike has not ended yet, though. I will go to court and defend myself. If the new judge and the appeal court both decide to keep me in prison, I will have to make a decision. Either I will stop my hunger strike, or I will resume it and drink water only.

Nothing inbetween anymore. In the latter case I will actively refuse being forcibly fed too, as long as I am able to. Those responsible for this police terror shall face the consequences.

The prosecution and police have produced absolutely no evidence against me whatsoever, although they had agents in our group and listened to all my phone calls, read all my mails, filmed the entrance of my home and followed me around. So they tried to fabricate evidence. They went to a person, who they know had animosities against me, and tried to push him to say that I am likely to have committed arson. He has gone public with that and revealed how police have tried to influence him and put words in his mouth.

Police also made up an arson attack and tried to blame it on me. Although their own expert found no evidence of arson, but rather that it was an accident with a poorly insulated oven, and that the owner indeed had been careless. Police fabricated an animal rights communiqué claiming responsibility for the arson. In addition, police shifted the date of accident to 2 days later, in order to blame it on me, since I was indeed 2 days later in the region!

What is happening here to me and the other activists imprisoned, is a violent crime of extreme proportions. I ask you to keep putting pressure on Austria and its government in whatever way you can. The case is crumbling, there are signs of this all over the place.

Senior prosecutors have already admitted that there is no concrete evidence and that the police raids were unlawful. They still insist on keeping us on remand, because by our mere (legal!) activism we prove to be companions in crime of ALF activists, and hence all form a huge criminal organisation – even if we don’t know each other! Police and prosecutors are trying to hold out as long as they can. Let us pull together and push them over the cliff. They must be publicly shown to be the criminals they are. And they must be prosecuted themselves for what they have done!

Martin Balluch, political prisoner, cell 75 / 05 hospital wing of JA Wien – Josefstadt, on the 2nd July 2008
 

Past Member (0)
Saturday July 5, 2008, 6:53 pm
http://humanrightsscandalinaustria-oipaindia.blogspot.com/
 

Laurel W (20)
Sunday July 6, 2008, 1:50 am
It is a sick world we live in when the humans who defend the helpless are imprisoned as if it is a crime. Activists are standing up against organized violence against animals and nature. We honor them for having compassion and integrity. They are heroes not criminals. The Austrian government are criminal for allowing animal rights abuses to go on!
 
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