by Gerald Igor Hauzenberger
At 6am on May 21, 2008, armed police burst into the apartment of Austrian dog trainer and animal-rights activist Sabine Koch, arresting her. After three months in custody, Koch, together with 12 other animal-rights activists, went on trial. They were charged with being members of a criminal organisation and therefore breaching article 273a of the Austrian Penal Code, introduced in the wake of 9/11. The article’s intention is to allow the state to stifle terrorist activity. Years of observation, house searches, and undercover agents – the police left no stone unturned in its bid to prove the animal-rights activists’ guilt. The sobering result: five million Euros worth of investigation, no proof and a great deal of scepticism towards the Austrian justice system – and democracy itself.