The Anonymous for Animal Rights organization held a rally on Tuesday outside the Austrian embassy in Tel Aviv in protest of the arrest of several animal welfare activists.
According to the group, the activists were arrested a month ago during a police raid on 21 apartments, 6 offices and a warehouse in various locations in Austria considered by local police to be the headquarters of Austria's six largest animal welfare groups. Anonymous said15 activists were released and the remaining 10 have remained in prison for over a month.
"It is important to realize that no charges were pressed against any of the accused activists, and that they are being held as political prisoners while not being accused in anything concrete," Anonymous said.
Dr Martin Baluch, chairman of the Association Against Animal Factories (VGT), described his arrest to Anonymous: "
Black clad, masked officers stormed through the broken down door and ran, guns drawn, to our beds. They pointed their guns at my head and pulled me out of my bed naked. My brother was pushed onto the wall and had the gun put into his neck."
Anonymous said in a statement that the arrests "should serve as a warning sign, as the movement in Austria has had many achievements, such as banning battery hen cages, fur farms and wild animal circuses. The Austrian case is part of a growing trend in the world against organizations for animal rights and welfare, such as the American Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act from November 2006, which classifies as 'terror' any act that could cause economic damage to a business abusing animals."
'All those in detention represented by lawyers'
Spokeswoman Gaya Goldberg said, "These are dark days for Austrian democracy. The arrest of political prisoners without grounds and without a trial brings to mind dark periods in history. Their continuous detention without a trial constitutes a surrender of human rights and the rule of law in Austria and the European Union at large. There is no escaping the conclusion that commercial motives are behind the arrests.
"The real criminal is the Austrian police, and not the good people dedicating their lives to exposing the truth and revealing to the public and legislators how factory farms turn animals into miserable and tormented production machines. This truth had already succeeded to convince legislators in the past, and it is no coincidence that the arrests took place one day before the launching of a new legislative campaign," she stated.
Austrian Embassy spokesman Dr. Arad Benkö said in response "the legal proceedings (in the town of Wiener Neustadt) are not directed against any persons or institutions with the aim of animal protection but against individuals that have joined forces under pseudonyms such as 'Animal Liberation Front' with the aim of damaging property and taking part in other indictable activities against enterprises that deal with coats and other animal products or other economic units in order to harm them and force them to change their business strategy.
"Between 2000 and 2008 at least 14 cases of damage to property were recorded, including arson against clothing shops and animal farms with a total loss of 600.000 Euros. There are even some letters of confession. The provincial court of Wiener Neustadt has therefore imposed detention while awaiting trial.
The spokesman added that "reproaches with regard to house searches can be refuted by video and photo documentation.
"Of course all those in detention are represented and assisted by lawyers," he said.