According to the information released about the trial dates, the 278a
trial will take place in Wiener Neustadt over the course of 34 days
(initially) over the course of four months. The exact trial dates can be
From March 2nd onwards, thirteen animal rights activists will be on
trial in Wiener Neustadt in Lower Austria. The activists are accused of
“Forming a Criminal Organisation” according to §278a of the Austrian
Penal Code. All of them are threatened by sentences ranging from six
months to five years imprisonment.
Attempts of moving the trial to the court in Vienna were fruitless.
Wolfgang Handler, the prosecutor, wants to summon over 120 incriminating
witnesses. Thus he not only continues his completely incomprehensible
endeavour of attempting to imprison political activists, but also
prolongs the trial in a way that will get them stuck with huge expenses
for lawyers, regardless of the verdict. According to media reports,
the trial will take at least six months, with two or there days of
actual court dates every week. So far, 34 dates were made public.
Currently, the expenses for lawyers are estimated at a total of 300,000
During the first round of trial, the verdict will be pronounced by one
judge, Sonja Arleth.
The activists are primarily accused of “Forming or Taking Part in a
Criminal Organization”. This construct is supposed to be responsible for
all legal and illegal actions surrounding the topic of animal rights
that have happened in Austria since the 80ies.
They supposedly pressured companies to reach their goal – to end animal
exploitation. Some individuals are additionally accused of (aggravated)
coercion, property destruction and “permanently removing objects” (ie.
freeing captivated animals).
For example, the activists allegedly forced businesses to stop selling
fur through the use of anti-fur campaigns including legal protest and
civil disobedience. This means that it is possible for every form of
political protest to be criminalized. Strikes, which can include very
similar methods, have been legal in Austria for a very long time. This
trial is an attempt to criminalize political activism and make it
The imminent trial does not only create an intense financial and
emotional stress for the accused. Because of the length and size of the
process it will hardly be possible for them to live a normal life – for
many months! For the first time in Austria, political activists will
be taken to court for a “crime of organization” to make an example of
left-wing grassroots activists.
If the accused are convicted, this will probably only be the start of
other attempts to criminalize progressive social movements in Austria.
Do not leave the accused alone, accompany them at their trial, organize
solidarity actions and collect donations!
Solidarity is a weapon!