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Home | Friday 9th January 2009 | Issue 661

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On December 22nd four people from the campaign group SHAC (see SchNEWS 652) were found guilty of "conspiracy to blackmail" the animal testing laboratory Huntingdon Life Sciences. Supposedly there was a six year campaign that included hoax bombs, threatening letters and criminal damage - but none of the four were linked to any of these crimes. What the prosecution boiled down to was that these people were the "leaders" of SHAC, and there had been illegal actions against HLS and its associates - so therefore the act of running an open campaign, organising legal demos and publishing information (available in the public domain) about HLS and companies that dealt with it, - was tantamount to waging a campaign of blackmail. So therefore the leaders of SHAC are considered responsible for the actions of others. They are awaiting sentence.

Some people involved were only 17 when they joined and have not been part of SHAC for the length of time the conspiracy occurred. Three people earlier in the year had plead guilty to conspiracy, and this fact was used by the prosecution to imply that two of the other accused who had lived with some of those that plead guilty must be guilty by association. (Do you know what your flatmate gets up to when you're not around? They might be conspiring!)

The police operation has seen a massive amount of resources piled into it, lead by NETCU who are the government's political police force protecting businesses. NETCU's job is to harass animal rights campaigners and are increasingly turning their turning to anti-war and climate change activists. In one extreme example police arrested and raided the houses of two protesters who had hung a banner against a customer of HLS.

One curious fact of this case is that it was tried in Winchester, while SHAC is based in Kent and HLS in Cambridge. Winchester is a very conservative town and was also the place where the Gandalf 3 were found guilty of "conspiracy to incite criminal damage" for reporting direct action. (See GandALF Trial). smells a real conspiracy...

* More info on SHAC:

* Support the prisoners:


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