Friday, May 27, 2005

Animal Rights Activists Face Trial as Terrorists

Federal prosecutors plan to use the expanded federal Animal Enterprise Protection Act, a 2002 law that defines domestic terrorism, against seven members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty who go on trial in Trenton, NJ next week.

The charges allege that SHAC's website posted tactics for use in a long-running battle with Huntingdon Life Sciences including threats, harassment and destruction of property. The defendants face counts of stalking and conspiracy to commit stalking, potentially resulting in five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

But, SHAC spokeswoman Andrea Lindsay on Thursday called the charges 'absolutely trumped-up.' She said a list of tactics was listed on the SHAC Web site with a disclaimer noting that SHAC did not encourage those activities. The defendants argue that they were not directly involved in any of the acts, merely exercising their First Amendment rights.

One motion for dismissal of the charges against a defendant says that 'no individual defendant ... is alleged to have been involved in those acts, which the indictment attributes generally to unnamed 'individuals' or 'protesters.''

In 1998, Huntingdon was cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 23 violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including a failure to ensure that procedures were performed with appropriate anesthetics or sedatives. The company agreed to pay $50,000 to settle the charges.


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