civil disobedience against gmo-fields in Belgium – Debate on GMOs refused by court
January 16, 2013 in Health
Belgium – Judges deny anti-GMO activists a fair trial
Debate on GMOs refused by court
Dendermonde/Brussels, 15/01/2013 – In the presence of a huge crowd of supporters from a range of organisations, the court of Dendermonde (Belgium) has denied 11 anti-GMO activists the legal right to a defence in court. The court refused to allow defence witnesses to give their statements, and also refused to allow video footage to be shown. This is in violation of article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights which guarantees defendants the right to a fair trial. In response, the 11 field liberators and their lawyers decided unanimously to leave the court room.
In contrast to the vast majority of Belgian court cases, no independent investigating judge was appointed. This is despite the fact that the prosecution has politicised the trial by introducing the charge of forming a criminal gang. The summons to appear was issued directly by the public prosecutor. The investigation was therefore only conducted for the prosecution. In order to be a fair trial, the investigation should also be conducted for the defence. In order to ensure a fair trial, the defence lawyers wanted at least an investigation during the trial, including a number of defence witnesses and video clips. This was refused by the court. At this point the defendants and their lawyers left the courtroom, let the case continue in their absence, and took no further part in the trial.
The civil parties to the case – including ILVO (The Flemish Institute for Agricuture and Fisheries Research), VIB (Flemish Institute for Biotechnology), University of Gent, Hogeschool Gent – put forward their case, and demanded damages.
The judgement is expected on 12th February: in the event of a guilty verdict, the activists will appeal.
The court has refused to allow a debate about sustainable agriculture, the role of GMOs, and pubic research. The struggle for freedom of expression, justice for activists, and a sustainable agricultural system will continue.
11 face court after GMO potatoes were destroyed
It was in May of 2011 that protesters belonging to the Field Liberation Movement destroyed a field of genetically modified potatoes in a field in Wetteren where Ghent University was carrying out a pilot project.
The eleven now face charges in connection with the destruction of the crop but also with regard to inflicting grievous bodily harm.
The defendants, who walked out of the courtroom, are insisting that in order to get a fair trial new witnesses should be called and some people should be able to provide evidence in video form. This is being denied.
The defendants are also unhappy that several ‘volunteer’ defendants have not been allowed to appear. These include several professors, politicians, students and representatives of non-governmental organisations.
The defendants will now be tried in their absence and will be able to appeal later on. A verdict is expected by 12 February.