Federal judge weighs legal challenge to animal rights anti-terrorism law
[San Jose Mercury News]
A federal judge in San Jose will weigh arguments today over whether a 2006 law designed to stem violent animal rights protests is unconstitutional, marking the nation's first legal showdown involving a Justice Department crackdown on activists accused of threats against medical researchers and others.
U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte is considering a legal challenge to the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which was invoked for the first time in an indictment earlier this year against four activists charged with threats and vandalism against University of California medical researchers in Santa Cruz and Berkeley.
In motions to dismiss the indictment, civil liberties groups and lawyers for the defendants argue that the animal terrorism law is unconstitutional on its face, saying it is overbroad because it covers legitimate free speech and so vague that citizens cannot determine if they're committing a crime.
In response, Justice Department lawyers defend the constitutionality of the law, saying it applies to "criminal conduct, not protected speech."
Forwarded from the Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC); June 2009
As I write this, I am awaiting trial and could spend up to ten years of my life in prison. I am accused of speech and non-violent actions on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of animals currently imprisoned in University of California laboratories. It's been four months since my arrest and as more facts of the case come out, one thing is transparent: this case has nothing to do with me or my co-defendants. Nothing to do with our alleged crimes. Not the alleged chalk on the sidewalk outside a vivisectors home or computers allegedly used for research in California. This is about the power all of you hold, as individuals and collectively as a movement. This is yet another attempt by the FBI to intimidate and destroy our community, to strike fear into each and every one of you. Force and threats are the only tools they have against a movement composed entirely of selfless individuals driven by compassion.
But I am not intimidated. I have seen the best of people through this ordeal. From the 60 calls to the jail I was held at in one night demanding and succeeding in acquiring me vegan meals, to all the letters I received, to the hundreds of people who have donated to our legal fund or organized benefits, you all have been amazing.
The government simply does not have the money to prosecute all of you as terrorists. They are counting on you to read of cases like ours and retreat, paralyzed by fear. So be fearless and increase your activism. Because those we are fighting for don't have the privilege of turning their backs and walking away.
I'd like to end with a humble plea. The government intends to send an example and go all the way with this case. Our legal team is solid and experienced in fighting government repression and dedicated to winning the case and hopefully overturning the AETA. They are working hard at reduced fees simply because they believe in us. We are relying on the generosity of supporters for our legal defense. If the government wins this case, it will have immeasurable consequences on future activists as well as the animals. If you can help in any way, please donate to our legal fund.
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