Maybe you’ve heard about the SHAC campaign – a really big and very successful campaign against HLS, Europs’s largest animal testing laboratory and the most notorious and protested lab in history? But as the campaign was so successful, the state not only fed HLS with a lot of money but also hit back with anti-terrorism laws against animal rights activists.
In July 2012 Sven and Natasha
were raided and arrested in Amsterdam under a European arrest warrant. They were accused of ‘conspiracy to blackmail’ in relation to Huntingdon Life Sciences (recently rebranded as Envigo). The UK government has gone to extraordinary lengths to stop people protesting against HLS, with increasing targeting and repression of campaigners. Sven and Natasha are awaiting extradition to the UK for their trial and face up to 14 years in prison.
This week, from January 25th until 31st we’ll donate 1 € to Sven & Natasha for every patch you’re going to buy from our store!
Hey Sven and Natasha, thanks a lot that you’ve got the time for this interview!
How’s your situation right now?
Right now (January 2016) we are both still living in Amsterdam and awaiting our extradition, which was approved a long time ago. It turns out that you don’t need much to extradite someone, just a piece of paper with some bullshit bullet points and a stamp from a judge and you’re good to go!! The reason it has been delayed so much (several years, in fact) is because we are currently going through the final stages of a Dutch case where we were found guilty of releasing mink from a fur farm. It turns out there’s an international agreement that you’re not allowed to have legal proceedings in two separate countries running at the same time, so the English cops have had to wait to get their hands on us! As soon as this Dutch case is finished, we will be forcibly shipped to England.
There isn’t much we can do or work on at this stage. We’ve still not been served even a single piece of paper related to our case, except for our European Arrest Warrants. But we do have a little team of really amazing lawyers and a lovely support group, and for that we’re really grateful.
That sounds really hard: to have one trial and knowing that there’ll follow another one …
It’s definitely not the best situation to be in! On a positive note, we were given a suspended sentence for the mink farm raid, as we had already served time in prison for it on remand (before trial). Initially, the prosecution asked for 15 months imprisonment, but the judge did not agree, and gave us 180 hours of community service. Then we appealed that decision, and got it reduced to a suspended sentence.
The Netherlands has a very different legal system and attitude to the UK. In the UK, they are completely hysterical, fearful of political actions, and blinded by hatred of anybody who affects big business or the government’s interests. As a result, you will never have a ‘fair trial’ (if that really exists) if you are arrested for anything political in the UK.
If you say you haven’t received any papers abouth the case so far – does this mean that you don’t know far more than that you’re accused of “conspiracy to blackmail”?
All we know is what is written in our European Arrest Warrants. They have accused us of a lot of really serious stuff, including direct actions that happened all across Europe. And typical stuff, like saying we posted a letter or did a protest somewhere.
How did you experience the raid and the following?
As far as raids go, it wasn’t the worst in the world, but naturally it was stressful. They did smash their way in which was a bit of a surprise at 6am! It was quite amusing watching a massive team of Dutch and English cops try to fit into our tiny, one bedroom 30m2 apartment!
After we were arrested, we were remanded in prison for one week before being bailed. That sucked, because the prison always takes at least one week to get vegan food. I had to survive on fruit, bread, and peanut butter.
We’ve been on bail now for over 3 years. It’s stressful, but we try to enjoy and make the best out of life. I have a lot of health problems and the stress is definitely a big part of that.
You’re on bail – what are your sanctions in Amsterdam?
Initially we had to ‘sign in’ to a police station once a week. But we demanded this to be changed, as it meant we could not really leave Amsterdam. So now we just have to go ‘sign in’ once a month, which is much better. We’re also not allowed to travel outside of the Netherlands. It’s a tiny country to be trapped in, but I’m always happy just to be free and not locked in a cage!
You said you’re accused of actions that took place all over Europa – which means at least many of them didn’t take place in the UK. Can you explain the juridical arguments that make it possible to sentence you in the UK for actions outside the UK?
It’s a really weird situation (and to be honest, I’m not sure how legal it really is?!)
As far as I’ve been told, in the UK there are only a few laws that can be used for crimes that have not been committed in the UK itself. Those are conspiracies and blackmail. Since we are charged with Conspiracy to Blackmail, I guess that meets their ‘criteria’. Also because Huntingdon Life Sciences is based in the UK, and they were the ones people had targeted for so many years all across the world.
It’s a bit of a stretch, in my opinion at least. They clearly want to put us on trial in the UK as other countries do not even have conspiracy laws, or they at least don’t use them against protest groups.
And what’s the sentence you’d have to expect in the UK?
The charge carries a sentence of 4 – 14 years if found guilty.
You’re a couple – but Sven is allowed to go back to Holland after trial and you’re not. Why is that?
Sven is a Dutch national, and I am a British citizen. When you’re extradited from your home country, they offer you basic rights as a form of ‘protection’. Because I’m just a resident living in the Netherlands, with a British passport, I wasn’t allowed those rights. This is something we are working on, though!
How can people from Germany or anywhere in the world support you? What do you need the most?
Spreading the word about our case is always really great! It’s hard to support us right now because we are ‘in limbo’, so to speak. Probably in the future we have some more concrete ways people can help.
Thanks a lot for the interview! We hope that this motivates some people to support you and everything will turn out right!
You want to stay tuned? Have a look at the website and facebook page.
Below you’ll find some links to further reading/watching and to some buttons and patches related to this topic. And don’t forget: We’ll donate 1 € to Sven & Natasha for every patch you’re going to buy from our store from January 25th till 31st!
Literature and DVDs
- Animal Liberation Front Supporters Group Newsletter, including letters from prisoners and information about their cases;
- Muzzling a Movement: The Effects of Anti-Terrorism Law, Money, and Politics on Animal Activism;
- Green is the new red (Will Potter): a well-written and important book full of shocking details on what the powerful are willing to do to silence critical voices.
- Der Prozess (DVD): a film about the trial against animal rights activists in Austria;
- Maximum Tolerated Dose (DVD), a documentary about the lives of both humans and non-humans who have experienced animal testing first-hand
- Liberator: Earth Crisis, a comic about activists who rescue animals from labs.