A Letter from Sean to Gagged!

December 18, 2008

Below is a letter received from Sean Kirtley to be used as an article for Gagged! More info about Sean’s case can be found here https://supportsean.wordpress.com and you can write to him at this address: Sean Kirtley WC 6977, HMP Stafford, 54 GAOL RD, Stafford, ST16 3AW (remember to send a SAE with your letter)

At 7:00am on May 9th 2006 police raided nine homes across the Midlands and subsequently arrested twelve activists over a 48 hour period. The door on my house had been so violently battered that there was only two shards of wood hanging of the remaining hinges. Police arrested me and spent nine hours searching the premises while my partner remained in the house, not pleasant at all. A megaphone, banners, thousands of leaflets, mobile phones, computer, digital camera, clothes, letters, discs were all seized as evidence of my involvement in the campaign against Sequani animal testing lab in Herefordshire. The others that were raided all had similar property seized.

After being charged and bailed for almost two years the case went to court in January 08 at Birmingham crown court. Seven of us were charged with ‘conspiracy to interfere with an animal research organisation’ and put on trail.

The bulk of the evidence against me related to the stop Sequani animal testing website, which I ran and my use of PGP email encryption and other privacy tools that were on my PC. It was suggested that I organised demos outside Sequani and companies that did business with Sequani although the SSAT website had a policy of not advertising demos! It was then suggested because of the amount of phone calls between myself and other defendants (phone logs submitted by the relevant telephone providers) that I must also have been ‘organising’ over the telephone. Even though the defendants were friends and friends call each other to chat and socialise. Even if I had been organising demos all were peaceful affairs anyway usually involving a mega phone or two and plenty of placards.

After an 18 week trial where the jury were bussed in from a secret location, the press and other reporters were banned from covering the case, police were ‘on guard’ outside the courtroom, where supporters were banned from wearing any animal welfare logos on clothing, the merest mention of experiments on animals at Sequani was outlawed. I was the only one to be found guilty of conspiracy after the jury had been out for many days deliberating. My appeal against sentence and conviction was launched on June 20th this year and has yet to be heard.

I was remanded to Winson Green prison in Birmingham on May 14th and sentenced at Coventry crown court on May 30th 08. The judge called me ‘a sinister criminal’ who ‘ has done nothing for my cause’ sentenced me to four and a half years in prison and imposed a five year supper ASBO on my release in August 2010 banning me from Herefordshire and from contacting Sequani for the duration.

The unlawful action that contravened section 145 SOCPA mentioned during the trial were:

· Lengthy and informative faxes had been sent to suppliers of Sequani during demos, there was no evidence to suggest that I or any other defendants had sent these faxes.

· Aggravated trespass had taken place at demos by defendants (including myself) standing in the car parks of suppliers even though there were police present, also entering buildings but leaving when asked to.

· Sequani workers, and workers of companies that supply Sequani had been ‘upset’ by the demos also a few neighbours in the vicinity of the lab had been ‘upset’ by the demos.

During prosecution evidence being given there was no suggestion that any ‘home demos’ or direct action’ had been at Sequani or its workers.

This was a campaign that had ‘upset’ those that are licensed by the home office to experiment on innocent, defenceless animals and because of that ‘upset’ I sit here in my cell writing this short recall of how I ended up here.

I’ve always fought for the oppressed whether human or non human, either by encouraging mutual aid or exposing the truth regarding the way we treat other sentient beings for our own selfish ends.

The support and outrage, inside and outside, continues to be brilliant, from supporters, family and friends and continues to get my through this time of repression.

‘If you aren’t being effective at changing the world for the better, they aren’t interested, if you are, be careful. The Future of the world is in your hands.’

In Solidarity.

Sean

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