Statewatch News online: Greenpeace charged under Danish anti-terror laws

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Greenpeace charged under anti-terror laws

The Danish branch of Greenpeace, the international environmental campaigning organization, was charged yesterday (11 May 2005) under laws adopted to implement UN and EU law on the financing of acts of terrorism.

The acts in question occurred on 13 October 2003 when Greenpeace activists staged a protest against the widespread use of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in animal feed on Danish farms. The protest took place outside of and on the roof of the Agricultural Council in the centre of Copenhagen which is opposite of the famous Tivoli amusement park. In front of the building Greenpeace had set-up an information stand and was handing out balloons to children with a text saying "GMO - no thanks!". Then, as part of the protest, 15 activists entered the council headquarters, went up on the roof and unfolded a banner. Mr. Dan Belusa, Nordic GMO coordinator for Greenpeace, explained to Statewatch that:

"Nothing was broken during the event and the activists went peacefully with the police to the station where they were questioned and released soon after. Later they were charged with disturbing the peace (under article 264, 1.1. of the Penal Code), an offence that normally gives a fine of a few thousand Danish kr."

But now prosecutors have extended the charges to include Greenpeace as an organisation. This is the first use of the amended penal code which was changed in order to comply with the UN Convention on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and the UN Security Council Resolutions adopted after September 11 2001 (which were incorporated into EU law in December 2001). The powers in question oblige member states to enact laws that allow for the prosecution of organisations and companies in connection with acts of terrorism. The Danish Parliament adopted the neceassry amendments to the penal code in the spring of 2002. Before they came into effect organisations and companies could only be charged for illegal acts committed for economic gain. Steen Bech, a Greenpeace lawyer, says:

"It is this change which makes it possible for the police lawyers to bring charges against Greenpeace as an organisation. It is unheard of that the terror law in this way hits organisations that build their work on peaceful, non-violent methods. Actions of the kind Greenpeace activists perform are based on honourable principles of civil disobedience, where each individual takes responsibility for their own actions. There should be no collective punishment."

Mads Christensen, Greenpeace Denmark's head of campaigns, told Statewatch that he had no idea about of the size of the punishment awaiting the organisation:

"Since there is no precedent for such a situation we expect the police advocate to do one of two things: either to ask for a specific punishment at the opening of the trial, or leave it up to the court to decide."

Christensen is concerned that this case could scare Greenpeace activists and act as a deterrent against future actions - despite the fact that environmental problems are getting worse.

In the Danish Parliament, Ms. Line Barfod (MP), legal affairs speaker for Enhedslisten (The Red-Green Alliance) said:

"Earlier, when we warned against the consequences of the terror laws being able to be used against people other than terrorists, we were told we were inventing bogey-men. Unfortunately it now seems that the laws are being used against peaceful actions."

Ms. Barfod has raised the principal issue of the use of not just this part of the terror law, but also the whole range of amendments of the Penal Code and other laws, which followed upon 9/11, with the minister of Justice, Ms. Lene Espersen.

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