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Justice or repression?
Posted 5 January 2009
On December 23rd 2008, four of the five anti-vivisection activists on trial at Winchester Crown Court were found guilty of 'conspiracy to blackmail' after a 14-week trial. They were accused of harassment against employees of Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) and their customers, shareholders and investors. Actions directed against HLS, but not proven to be linked to those convicted – such as hoax bombs, letters alleging paedophilia, and threats – were highlighted as evidence of the defendants' extremism.
The trial and events leading up to it generated worldwide media attention, and SHAC activists’ convictions prompted celebratory statements by police, government ministers and drug industry leaders. But the celebrations were not universal. The research group, Corporate Watch, saw the trial as ‘ part of a larger attack on the animal rights movement motivated by the state's desire to protect private corporations against dissent’.