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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 %u201CThe measures taken by the police were in no way directed against animal welfare or animal welfare organisations%u201D, 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 and the Austrian Green Party have reacted strongly, questioning police methods and the treatment of detainees, particularly the absence of actionable evidence justifying %u201Cstrong suspicion%u201D (dringender Tatverdacht) or the %u201Creason (or grounds)%u201D (Haftgrund) for the arrests. Detainee accounts of what has happened are alarming: see, for example, the appeal sent out by Martin Balluch on June 9.

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? %u201CAll 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.%u201D (Elfriede Jelinek, Nobel Prize for literature 2004).

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.

Information in German and English is available on the website of the Association Against Animal Factories (Verein Gegen Tierfabriken): (1) (2 (3)

ENDORSED BY: 174 National & International NGOs and groups (list growing) see: from 32 countries, namely

Argentine Austria Australia Belgium Brazil Canada Croatia Czech Republic Finland France Germany Hong Kong India Ireland Israel Italy Nepal Netherlands New Zealand Philippines Poland Portugal Romania Serbia Slovenia South Africa Spain Sri Lanka Sweden Switzerland United Kingdom United States of America

Please see also the following petition and appeal sites:


We ask  for the immediate release and believe that a fair trial will still be possible, if they are no longer kept locked up. 

The reputation of Austria as a constitutional state could suffer now a serious blow, if the justice system would not take immediate action to redress the situation and release the detainees from remand.





Sehr geehrter Herr Bundespraesident!
Sehr geehrter Herr Bundeskanzler!
Sehr geehrte Frau Minister!

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 %uFFFD 278a Austrian Penal Code (The formation of a %u201Ccriminal organisation%u201D, a paragraph, which is otherwise used solely in relation to people smuggling rings and Mafia organisations. Proof of the existence of the alleged %u201Ccriminal organisation%u201D 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!
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