ELP Information Bulletin (3rd of July 2008)
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 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
Earth Liberation Prisoners Support Network
BM Box 2407
Update: July 16, Eberhart Theuer, member of legal defense team
This afternoon (Wednesday, Jul 16th) the Court of Second Instance (in German Oberlandesgericht) rejected our complaint against the first prolongation decision by the Court of the First Instance. The next regular detention hearing will be in September. I don't know any details of the reasoning of the Court yet - all I can say is that the courts in this case are very persistent in doing injustice.
Please, if at all possible, continue with your work to gather public pressure abroad e.g. by informing the Austrian foreign ministry and the tourist board about your tourism boycott plans and the bad name this case gives Austria. I will tell you more about the details of the decision as soon as I get more.
Meanwhile, I am trying to keep those activists left in freedom, out of prison.
Email the Authorities
Here is a page that allows you to easily and quickly email the authorities (suggested text included).
Or, if you prefer you can can write to the Austrian ministers using the following addresses (spam prevention: in the following email addresses, replace 'at' with '@' and remove spaces):
Home Secretary; Dr Günter Platter ministerbuero at bmi.gv.at
Minister for Justice; Frau Dr Berger minister.justiz at bmj.gv.at
Federal President; Dr Heinz Fischer heinz.fischer at hofburg.at
Federal Chancellor; Dr Alfred Gusenbauer alfred.gusenbauer at bka.gv.at