(Austria) – Around 7:00 am on Wednesday May 21 members of the Viennese elite police force (WEGA) stormed several apartments in Vienna. Some of the residents were woken up in their beds with guns drawn on them. A total of twenty-three (23) apartments, houses and offices were searches in Vienna, Lower Austria, Styria and Tirol.
In many of the apartments the WEGA kicked in the doors. The officers stormed the apartments like in bad Hollywood movies. 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. 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 (because, for example, the targeted people communicated via encrypted e-mails) as well as Danger of Committing a Crime (partially because the targeted people have been active in the animal rights scene for a long time). Both lines of argumentation stand in blatant opposition to the presumption of innocence. A criminal organization is completely arbitrarily constructed to be made responsible for all unsolved criminal offenses of the last few years. The accusations are not substantiated by any evidence; on the contrary – the authorities apparently hope to find evidence which confirms their suspicions through the house searches. Up til now and also in the future the suspicion of Forming a Criminal Organization can not be corroborated either by evidence or vague assumptions.
The targeted persons were brought directly from their apartments to the police detention center at Rossauer Lände and will be brought before a custodial judge within 48 hours. (Update: the targeted persons are being remanded to Wiener Neustadt, where they will face the above-mentioned custodial judge.) During the house searches a large part of the targeted persons were denied the ability to call a person of their confidence or legal representatives. Friends who wanted to observe the legality of the actions were also denied the possibility to speak to the targeted persons.
The actions of the authorities were out of proportion. The early morning storming of the apartments by masked WEGA officers with drawn weapons can only be described as completely excessive.
It remains unclear what the specific motive for these operations was. It can be assumed that the time and realization of these operations have a political background. In any case unpopular political actions are being criminalized and made impossible. Should this wave of repression which obviously was decreed from those in power remain unquestioned, this wave will certainly hit other forms of resistance and areas of activism.
The repression of leftist structures reached a new high point today with the wave of house searches and arrests. House searches by masked WEGA officers who kick down doors and and wake sleeping persons with drawn weapons have not been employed against the radical left in the past several years. The last time that a similar house search was made was after the Opera Ball Protest in 2001 directed against the EKH (a squat and autonomous center in Vienna).
This sort of action from the officials does not only ignite fear in the targeted persons. Friends and other activists are intended to be frightened by such actions as well. The excessive and sometimes brutal police operations try to communicate that resistance is not worth it. We can not allow ourselves to be isolated from one another. Together we can talk about our fears and develop strategies for dealing with them.
We are asking for solidarity for those targeted by the wave of repression. It does not matter if you are vegan, feminist, antifascist, against surveillance, atomic energy or police brutality – we are all targeted, even if only a few are directly affected at the moment!
Organize benefit parties, donate money for the legal help, network with each other, inform yourself about your rights, learn about and use your right to remain silent and learn about your rights in the case of a house search!
Info hotline for targeted people, friends, and family: + 43 650/5926791
On Monday, May 26 at 10:00 am there will be a press conference from the legal assistance at the press room of the Green Parlamentary Club, located Löwelstraße 12, on the second floor.
(Original text from Wednesday, May 21 2008, translation from Thursday, May 22 2008 ca. 23:00.)