[AR-News] Message from animal rights prisoner martin balluch, austria
- Message to the international animal rights movement regarding my hunger
strike on my 43rd day of incarceration
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
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
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 resume 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
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