§278a: Trial Against Animal Rights Activists -- Solidarity Worldwide
Around the opening day of the trial there are actions planned to support the defendants. On the one hand the actions focus on direct solidarity, on the other hand they protest against a political tendency towards surveilling and eventually criminalising revolutionary and critical structures. The actions were kicked off by 800 activists with a protest on Saturday, February 27, 2010 in Vienna [report | photos | video (de)]. There is a call out for a global day of action [de | ru | es | fr] on the opening trial date, March 2. Further actions are expected during the (minimum) 32 trial dates in Wiener Neustadt.
On May 21, 2008, members of Austrian elite police forces stormed 23 apartments and offices across the country. Many of the residents were woken up in their beds at gunpoint.
Only after the residents had been intimidated, "secured" on the wall and/or put in handcuffs did the police start the searches.
The grounds for the searches was the accusation Formation of a Criminal Organization according to §278a of the criminal code, along with the accusation of various felonies such as property damage, arson, etc. There were arrest warrants for 10 of the people targeted by the searches. The basis of the arrest warrants was the accusation of Danger of the Destruction of Evidence as well as Danger of Commiting a Crime.
See the Features from 2008: Repression against animal rights activists - 'touch one, touch all' | deutsch | español | Ελληνικά | polski
Numerous Solidarity Actions Worldwise - Release from Prison
In reaction to the repression there were an unforeseeable amount of solidarity actions. The release of all the prisoners and an end to the proceedings were demanded.
On August 13, 2008 the first of the ten prisoners was released when a pre-trial detention judge for the first time distanced his_her/self from the position of the prosecution and did not see a "danger of commiting a crime." The prosecution appealled the release. Followung that decision however the nine further prisoners were ordered released on September 2, 2008 under the direction of the upper level prosecutors in Vienna. In a complete surpise, they decided that the expected jail time in the case of a conviction stood out of proportion to the time already spent in pre-trial detention. An argument, which in view of the fact that the penalty for a conviction of §278a ranges from 6 months to 5 years, seems very unusual.
The following videos give a glimpse into the background of the accusations and the solidarity protests:
More Defendants in February
On February 1, 201 it was made known that three further persons were being charged with §278a and would also be facing a court case starting on March 2, 2010. In total over 40 people were the object of investigations -- the inquiries into 26 persons were ended. Thus the investigations continue only against a 14th person.
From March 2nd onwards, thirteen animal rights activists will be on trial in Wiener Neustadt in Lower Austria. The activists are accused of “Forming a Criminal Organisation” according to §278a of the Austrian Penal Code. All of them are threatened by sentences ranging from six months to five years imprisonment.
Wolfgang Handler, the prosecutor, wants to summon over 120 incriminating witnesses. Thus he not only continues his completely incomprehensible endeavour of attempting to imprison political activists, but also prolongs the trial in a way that will get them stuck with huge expenses for lawyers, regardless of the verdict. According to media reports, the trial will take at least six months, with two or there days of actual court dates every week. So far, 34 dates were made public.
The trial will take place in the district court (Landesgericht) in Wiener Neustadt, in the großer Schwurgerichtsaal on the european first floor. The sessions are scheduled to take place from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm.
The course of the trial will be documented on antirep2008.tk with daily trial reports, background information, etc.