[Ppnews] Animal rights activists face trial under terror law

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Mon Jun 6 19:58:53 EDT 2005


Animal rights activists face trial under terror law
Mon Jun 6, 2005 09:36 AM ET
http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=oddlyEnoughNews&storyID=8706262
By Jon Hurdle

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - New Jersey is using an anti-terrorism law for the 
first time to try six animal rights activists charged with harassing and 
vandalizing a company that made use of animals to test its drugs.

Prosecutors say the activists, who will stand trial next week, used 
threats, intimidation and cyber attacks against employees of Huntingdon 
Life Sciences, a British company with operations in East Millstone, New 
Jersey, with the intention of driving it out of business.

The six, members of a group called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), 
are charged under the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, amended in 2002 to 
include "animal enterprise terrorism," which outlaws disrupting firms like 
Huntingdon.

If convicted, the group and its accused members face a maximum $250,000 
fine and three years in prison.

SHAC argued that the charges are a violation of free-speech rights and it 
is the victim of a government crackdown on dissent. "This is a frightening 
step in the Bush administration's path to war on domestic dissidence," the 
group said on its Web site.

The defendants are also charged with interstate stalking, which carries a 
maximum sentence of five years in prison and $250,000 fine, and with 
conspiracy to engage in interstate stalking, carrying the same penalty.

The list of potential defense witnesses includes actress Kim Basinger, who 
joined a protest outside a Huntingdon laboratory in Franklin, New Jersey to 
try to stop such companies using animals to test their pharmaceutical 
products.

The group also targeted other companies that did business with Huntingdon. 
Those firms were swamped with telephone calls and e-mail blitzes intended 
to clog their computer systems, the indictment said.

Other alleged incidents include overturning a Huntingdon employee's car in 
the driveway of his New Jersey home and the destruction of putting greens 
at the Meadowbrook Golf Club in Long Island, New York, where some 
Huntingdon employees held memberships.

Those charged are Kevin Kjonaas, 27, president of SHAC; Lauren Gazzola, 26, 
the group's campaign coordinator; Jacob Conroy, 29; Joshua Harper, 30; 
Darius Fullmer, 28; and Andrew Stepanian, 26. They all deny the charges.

Opening arguments before Judge Mary Cooper of U.S. District Court in 
Trenton, New Jersey, are expected early next week. Jury selection began 
Wednesday.


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