[Ppnews] Victory for the AETA Four
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jul 16 11:55:29 EDT 2010
July 16 - 18, 2010
Dissent Victory for Animal Rights Activists
The Case of the AETA Four
By BILL QUIGLEY and RACHEL MEEROPOL
Police reports state that on October 21, 2007 a
group of about twenty people trespassed onto the
front lawn of the home of a Berkeley professor
involved in bio-medical research on animals.
According to the US government, some of the
protestors had bandanas covering the lower half
of their faces and they made a lot of noise,
chanting animal rights slogans like 1,2,3,4,
open up the cage door; 5,6,7,8, smash the locks
and liberate, 9,10,11,12, vivisectors go to hell.
A year and a half later, four young activists
were indicted in California federal court under
the little known and rarely used Animal
Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) for their
alleged involvement in this and others pickets.
The federal criminal indictment charged Joseph
Buddenberg, Maryam Khajavi, Nathan Pope and
Adriana Stumpo (now the AETA 4) with one count of
animal enterprise terrorism, and one count of
conspiracy. They each face ten years in prison if convicted.
Strangely, the criminal indictment against them
doesnt actually say anything about their chants
or leaflets, or what else they are supposed to
have done to violate the law.
There is some good news here. On July 12, 2010 a
federal judge threw out that indictment,
explaining that is was so general and vague it
failed to provide the defendants with notice of
what criminal act they are accused of committing,
a constitutional requirement.
In his order, Judge Ronald M. Whyte described the
indictment as quite generic. For an indictment
to fulfill its constitutional purposes, he
explained, it must allege facts that
sufficiently inform each defendant of what it is
he or she is alleged to have done that
constitutes a crime. This is particularly
important where the species of behavior in
question spans a wide spectrum from criminal
conduct to constitutionally protected political
protest. According to the judges ruling, the
government can re-indict these activists if they
make the charges much more specific.
AETA prosecutions are not your average criminal
cases. Trespass, threats, harassment these are
all activities that violate state law and carry
criminal penalties. And any violence by
activists, of course, can also be punished under state law.
The animal rights and radical environmental
movements arent violent against people. The
alleged illegal action that has occurred within
those groups has primarily been the type of
time-honored non-violent civil disobedience
Martin Luther King, Jr. made famous, although
there has been some property destruction. If no
one is hurt, how can the government prosecute
these kinds of acts as terrorism? Simple. First
reward rapacious corporate interests with an
incredibly broad federal law that equates any
action that hurts the bottom line of a
corporation with terrorism. Then issue generic
indictments calling picketers terrorists, without
explaining what they actually did. That is what happened to the AETA4.
This governmental tactic can drive those few
activists who actually commit serious illegal
acts far underground, while terrifying the
mainstream movements into silence.
The AETA4 ruling is a rare victory for animal
rights and environmental activists, whose
communities are under COINTELRO-style attack in
what has come to be known as the green scare.
Recent victims of this kind of governmental
prosecution include the SHAC7, activists who
ran a website documenting both lawful and
unlawful protest activities undertaken in the
campaign against animal testing by Huntington Life Sciences.
The SHAC7 were convicted of terrorism under the
precursor to the AETA, the Animal Enterprise
Protection Act, (AEPA) despite the fact that none
of them were accused, much less convicted, of
doing anything other than commenting on others
legal and illegal actions. Also threatened with
jail time under the AEPA is Scott Demuth, a young
activist who defied an Iowa grand jury subpoena
and was promptly charged with animal enterprise
terrorism. His indictment is so vague and
far-reaching that it seems designed to hold him
accountable for every act of property destruction
attributed to animal rights activists over two
years and across several states.
While animal rights and environmental activists
are the main targets of these new laws equating
protest with terrorism, the law could potentially
be applied to anyone who protests anything, and
does it effectively. The AETA defines an animal
enterprise to include any business that deals in
animal research or uses or sells animal products.
You can be accused of violating the law by
traveling across state lines (or using the
internet) to purposefully cause economic damage
(like lost profits) to an animal enterprise. That
is why CCR and other activist organizations are challenging these laws.
Environmental and animal rights groups are
organizing against this law and against the green
scare in general. Activists from other movements
need to join them. CCR is involved in several of
these battles, and updates are always available
on our website, at
learn about the latest prosecutions by visiting
the Civil Liberties Defense Centers website, at
<http://ww.cldc.org>ww.cldc.org. Attacks by
government on our human and civil rights are
always first directed at people on the margins
who do not have widespread popular support.
Animal and environmental activists are the ones
under attack today. Unless we stand up and
vigorously protect their rights to dissent,
others, including us, will be certainly be next.
Bill Quigley and Rachel Meeropol are human rights
attorneys at the Center for Constitutional
Rights. You can reach Bill at
<mailto:quigley77 at gmail.com>quigley77 at gmail.com
and Rachel at <mailto:rachelmeeropol at yahoo.com>rachelmeeropol at yahoo.com
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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