Twenty-four homes and offices were raided by the elite WEGA police force, guns were held to suspects' heads. Lawyers for the ten detained activists have not been given full access to the prosecution papers and no clear charge has yet been pressed. Other human rights violations have included forcibly taking DNA samples and restriction of visiting hours.
One of the prisoners, Dr Martin Balluch, who is the President of the Austrian Association Against Animal Factories, has been on hunger strike for thirteen days now - we need people to write urgently to Austrian ministers in protest:
Home Secretary; Dr Günter Platter firstname.lastname@example.org
Minister for Justice; Frau Dr Berger email@example.com
Federal President; Dr Heinz Fischer firstname.lastname@example.org
Federal Chancellor; Dr Alfred Gusenbauer email@example.com
For latest news, see http://www.vgt.at/index_en.php
Martin Balluch's statement follows...
VGT (Association against Animal Factories) Chairman Phd. Martin Balluch: Official Statement regarding Hunger Strike
27th May 2008
I have been in prison for 7 days. No charges have been made against me.
As a result of this human rights violation, I have embarked on a hunger strike while being on remand. I have not eaten since Tuesday May 20th, 2008. My condition is deteriorating.
On May 21st, 2008, a group of men in black masks demolished the door of my house early in the morning and stormed into my bedroom. They held a gun against my head while I was still in bed and forced me to get up naked. My brother, who was sleeping next door, was ordered to raise his arms. A gun was pressed against the back of his head. For the next six hours, the men raided my house. They confiscated computers, books and writings. I have been on remand ever since.
I am on a hunger strike because nobody has informed me why I have been arrested and held in custody. After many days without food I feel very weak and dizzy. But, I still have confidence in the rule of law in this country; that we here in Austria cannot be treated in this way without good reason. And that’s why I will continue on hunger strike until I am either given a reason or released.
The police have a substantial folder containing reports on investigations into 27 different animal rights activities during the last decade. My lawyer has given me the police folder. The folder does not contain an indictment or documents specifying any reasons or justifications for my imprisonment. The investigations include such activities as stalking a employee from a fur shop, hanging banners from bridges, breaking of shop windows and throwing of stink bombs.
All 27 investigations conclude by stating that the perpetrators remain unknown.
The Prosecution indicated to the media that I was involved in arson and gas bomb attacks. The 1500 pages of documents contained in the police file, do not refer to a single fire, arson or bomb attack. In fact, the Austrian News Agency has publically confirmed that no fire attacks by animal protection activists have been reported in Austria since 2000. My own name is only mentioned three times in the file. All three occasions were public media appearances: 1) an interview in an American animals rights journal, 2) an article in a popular Austrian life-style magazine and finally 3) a public radio talk show. I seriously doubt that this media work justifies my mistreatment and custody
The Association against Animal Factories, of which I am a member, is a peaceful organization that concentrates on political and public awareness campaigns only. We are one the first organizations worldwide to achieve, amongst other improvements for animals, a ban of battery cages. Since this political success in 2004, we have felt political pressure trying to ruin our reputation and infrastructure.
The Austrian Ministry of Interior is trying to distract attention from the fact that they have imprisoned me without any concrete allegation for my having committed a crime by spreading rumors about arson attacks. Despite the fact that no incriminating evidence was found during house searches I continue to be held in custody without being charged.
In order to publicize this police-terror scandal I will remain in hunger strike, despite risks to my health. I call on all people who are concerned about justice to support me in this fight for basic constitutional and human rights and my life.
PhD Martin Balluch
Chairman - The Association against Animal Factories
Prison, Wiener Neustadt, Austria
27th May 2008
Sorry about the poor reference:
smash fur - save the prisoners
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 sume 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