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Please send the letter (or write your own) ASAP (the email action began yesterday) to:minister.justiz@...
Honourable Minister Dr. Berger,
As you are aware, during the early morning hours on 21th May 2008 twenty-three raids and searc hes were carried out by a coordinated police operation against animal rights advocates in Austria. In the progress of these police raids doors were crushed open without any warning and the sleeping people assaulted with drawn guns. During the searches all people in the residential premises - being targeted, visitors or bystanders - were subjected to massive verbal and physical assaults, threats and intimidations by the police-squads.
As reason for this excessive p olice operation the public prosecutor had invoked §278a StGB (formation of a "criminal organization"), a piece of legislation, which Austria had introduced to combat Mafia-like organized crime or terror-groups, but no evidence, whatsoever, has been brought forward by the state of Austria that such allegations would have any foundation in the allegations against the ten animal advocates. None of the conditions, which §278a StGB requires to be applicable, are given and none of the other allegations brought forward could be proven by the prosecution either. Despite all this flawed process, the ten detainees are now kept far over the time allowed by the Austrian law in detention. The most basic laws of Austria and Europe, and legal principles like "Innocent until proven guilty!" as well as the internationally guaranteed freedom of speech and expression are therefore neglected and violated with impunity by the judiciary in Austria, for which yo u, as Minister of Justice, have the duty of oversight.
Though even the senior public prosecutor has consented meanwhile that excessive and inappropriate and thereby illegal force and methods were used by the special squad during these operations, the arrested people still 10 remain detained in remand prison, despite the fact that no evidence has been brought forward by the prosecution concerning any wrongdoing, which would warrant the police operations or the meanwhile now even extended detention o f the arrested Austrian citizens.
In addition the confiscated computers, data and other material of five legally operating non-governmental organizations have been retained by the investigation now also for over two months and thereby the legally guaranteed right of these organizations as well as the work of civil society to operate unhindered within the legal framework had been made nearly impossible. Such is also a clear violation of many European and internatio nal conventions to which Austria is a signatory.
It is thereby obvious that in Austria the work of animal rights defenders as well as civil society in general is criminalized outrageously and the good standing of legally and successful operating non-governmental organizations shall be tarnished. Though this has made the work, which also depends on private sponsors and contributors, of these NGOs nearly impossibly and has caused serious economic and operational damage, the excessiv e police operation as well as the unjust detention of the animal rights advocates has already backfired and has damaged the international image and reputation of the Republic of Austria severely, which is clearly the fault of a flawed system of the executive and the judiciary. During the first session under the French EU-Presidency of the council of European justice and internal ministers on 24th/25th of this month in Brussels you realized yourself the grave conce rn other European states have concerning the present developments in Austria.
Based on all this, we hereby too protest to the utmost against the illegal state operations in Austria and the unjustly extended detention of the ten animal rights activists.
Our work also consists of and supports legal activism in order to improve animal welfare legislation and like the detainees we refuse any form of illegal aggression, but in these cases brought here again to your attention, illega l aggressions against citizens and civil society are carried forward by the Austrian State, which you as Minister for Justice have the duty to stop.Dear Minister Dr. Berger, we therefore request from you again that you engage yourself, stop these atrocities and do everything possible to have the ten detainees set free immediately.
Please have the detainees set free, kindly respond to this letter and we hereby request officially to keep us informed concern ing what you have done and will do to rectify this unbearable and unjust situation in Austria.
You are the responsible Austrian Federal Minister - not just of justice, but for justice - and we therefore plead with you:
LET TRUE JUSTICE PREVAIL !
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