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TAKE ACTION! Help Copenhagen climate change activists falsely accused of terrorism

Natasha Verco and Noah Weiss with the incriminating evidence.

By Kieran Adair

March 23, 2010 -- In Copenhagen, Sydney-based climate justice advocate Natasha Verco, as well as US activist Noah Weiss, faces charges under Denmark’s “terrorism” laws. Verco faces up to 12-and-a-half years' jail for her role in organising protests against the United Nations Copemnhagen climate summit in December.

The two activists appeared in court on March 18 (see report below).

Verco was arrested while riding her bike on December the 13 ahead of a national day of action she was helping organise the following day. She said: “A plainclothed police women jumped out at me and ... took me to an unmarked police van. I asked them, ‘Are you randomly picking me up?’ and they said ‘No, we hunted you’.”

Verco was then held in in isolation — in an underground carpark — for about 16 hours before being taken to Copenhagen’s Vester prison where she was held for a further 23 days. Verco said she was charged the day after being taken to prison, but bail was refused.

“I wonder what the hell they’re going to argue because I can’t see what evidence they’ve got for these charges”, Verco said. “Under the new anti-terror laws they can do this, but it seems to me that applying terror laws to activists is steadily eroding the base of our democracy.”

During the December 7-18 UN summit, “dozens of protests from the small to mass rallies of 40,000 people, took place; the Danish police arrested nearly 2,000 people”, a March 18 Mobilization for Climate Justice statement said. “The police are now processing nearly 200 legal complaints about the treatment of the arrestees.”

[Action is needed in support of Verco and Weiss. To send a message to the Danish justice and foreign ministries to support the two, please click here or see below.]

Letter from Tash and Noah

March 22, 2010

Dear all,

First of all, Noah and I wanted to say a massive thank you for all the solidarity, the actions, articles, petitions and messages of care that have been organised in solidarity with our trial. Although we know that political repression of this sort targets all activists, it does feel very isolating being the people picked out and charged. Every single action of solidarity has made this process easier for us and reminded us that we are not alone. So thank you!

We have had several victories, some beautiful court moments, and a very stressful week in court. Our case was extended for three more days -- which will not happen until August. Noah and I are both sad that the trial is not over but relieved to have not been judged yesterday. I have included english versions of some of the danish press coverage on the case below to give you a better idea of what has been going on in our trial.

We were originally given two days in court for our trial (the Tuesday and Friday just passed). We had been charged with organising violence against the police, gross public disorder, systematic destruction of property and gross disturbance of public infrastructure. Two of these are charges associated with Danish terror laws. The police said that we did this from the period of october to December 2009 but that these things were mostly to be carried out in Copenhagen during the period of the 11th to the 18th of December. They said that the alleged actions we are accused of mostly failed because the police managed to stop them -- in part by arresting Noah on the 11th and me on the 13th of December and keeping us in prison for the rest of the COP (and three more weeks -- just to be sure!).

On the morning of the first day in court our lawyers argued for the case to be dropped. They explained that charges in Denmark usually have to include some description of what people are accused of doing, including things like how they were doing it, where, when … anything really. They successfully removed one of the terror charges (gross disturbance of public infrastructure) and got the police prosecutor to admit that none of the things we were accused of had any relation to what happened on the streets in Copenhagen during the COP 15. So now we are just accused of attempting actions, not actually carrying anything out!

It was at this point that the police prosecutor introduced the crystal-ball defence. No more details than “something bad was supposed to happen at some point somewhere in Copenhagen” could be supplied by the police because they couldn’t look into their crystal ball when they charged us! In a spectacular display of confidence in the charges she then asked the court to note that she had not actually written them herself!

The court decided to continue with the rest of the charges regardless, but after two days in court I am wondering if they regret that decision. The "evidence" for the non-specific things we are accused of organising is spurious at best and in the worst cases produced bursts of laughter from both judges and spectators in court. They have trucked out tiny bits of conversations from tapped phones between other people and asked us to interpret them, radically reinterpreted what we and others have said on the phone (from over three months of our private conversations that they recorded) to the point where even the judge objected. They used notes from brainstorms, scribbled notes from media report backs, and outlandish conjecture to try to demonise us.

My personal favourite is a note I made about big bolt cutters. Instead of asking to interview her during her three weeks in prison (although they said one of the reasons I was kept was for further investigation), they chose to leave until court to ask what was meant by this note in my confiscated personal note book. I explained that it was prop for a demonstration that was a huge two-metre tall papier-mache bolt cutter. It was to be used on the day of the climate "no-borders day of action" as both a humourous and serious way to say it is illegitimate to cage human beings. The prosecutor tried to throw doubt on the honesty of my reply until two of the audience in court went to pick them up from a local social centre and brought them in for the court to see. Everyone but the prosecutor laughed.

The state of the evidence would really be hilarious if the case didn’t carry such serious consequences both for us personally and for democracy in Denmark. We are the first of a series of cases against people accused of organising. It seems that the Danish state is using us as a test case for new anti-activist laws they have passed, the extension of terror legislation to cover any form of political protest and to establish the ability to try people for things that never actually occurred.

Noah and I were both picked up and arrested on the side of the road while riding our bikes by ourselves, threatened, isolated and kept in prison for over three weeks of "preventative detention". The personal impacts of this have been huge. Even scarier though is the potential effect this has on everyone’s ability to speak up about things they care about in Denmark. If they manage to criminalise protest to the extent that going to meetings, organising speakers for a demonstration, or being a media spokesperson can land you in jail, then what sort of world will we be living in? If they manage to say intense surveillance and monitoring of activists and their lovers and friends is legitimate, and arrests should be made on crystal-ball suspicions of potential actions -- then we have moved from even the sham of liberal democracy to a society more reminiscent of 1984 than any of us would like to admit.

It is clear also that this is not just happening in Denmark. Since our arrests we have heard of countless political prisoners facing the hard end of political repression. After our experience of injustice and repression in Denmark we feel very personally that it is so important that all of us speak out and not let this repression continue.

Free all political prisoners, drop the charges for the COP 15 defendants and all people arrested during the COP15, and end political repression NOW!!!

Love, solidarity and actions for a better world

Tash and Noah

xo

TAKE ACTION! Help Copenhagen activists accused of terrorism

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  These powerful words were penned in a prison cell in 1963, by one of the best-known advocates of equal rights – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Two environmental activists appeared in court on March 18 accused of terrorism-related offences during the Copenhagen climate summit in December.

Natasha Verco, an Australian honours student, and Noah Weiss, an American citizen who lives in Denmark, will face similar charges in a trial which is due to last all week.

Verco, who has organised non-violent direct action in her native country and who has been part of the Climate Justice Action (CJA) network in the lead-up to the summit in Copenhagen, has been charged with organising violence, organising public disorder, significant damage to property, and organising disorder during the international talks on climate change which took place in Copenhagen last year. If found guilty, Verco faces a maximum of 12 and a half years in prison.

Speaking a day ahead of the start of the trial, Verco recalled her arrest: “On December 13 I was riding my bike down by the Copenhagen lakes,and a plainclothes police woman jumped out at me and pushed me off the bike. She took me to an unmarked police van with six or seven plainclothes policemen. I asked them ‘Are you randomly picking me up?’ and they said ‘No, we hunted you’. They held me by myself in an underground carpark for about 16 hours, I think. Then I was taken to Vester prison and held there for three weeks and two days. I was charged the day after I got to prison, but bail was refused because, they said, the investigation was ongoing and I would influence it if I was released.”

Verco and Weiss say they both had their phones tapped, along with 17 other activists, which is legal under recently introduced terror legislation in Denmark. Verco said: “I feel nervous and indignant at the same time, I wonder what the hell they’re going to argue because I can’t see what evidence they’ve got for these charges. And looking back at the calls that they’ve taped, it feels very invasive. Under the new terror laws they can do this, but it seems to me that applying terror laws to activists is steadily eroding the base of our democracy.”

Verco was heavily involved in organising the day of action on December 14, but was arrested before it happened. When it took place, she was still being held by police. “The police say that they prevented anything happening by taking me in. There was no violence, and no disruption of the public infrastructure, because they’d arrested me.”

During the fortnight of talks, dozens of protests from the small to mass rallies of 40,000 people, took place; the Danish police arrested nearly 2,000 people. The police are now processing nearly 200 legal complaints about the treatment of the arrestees. Verco and Weiss were both involved with CJA, the network which helped to organise some of the protests during the talks, most notably the Reclaim Power demonstration outside the conference centre for the negotiations.

Apart from Weiss and Verconone of the other activists charged during the protests, including the Greenpeace Four who were arrested and held for three weeks after unfurling a banner during a black tie event, have yet had their court dates set.

Take action:

Complete the form at bottom to send the letter immediately below to the Danish Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs.

To Danish Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,

(jm@jm.dk, um@um.dk, udenrigsministeren@um.dk, trm@trm.dk)

As a concerned citizen, I am writing to express my concern at the decision of the Danish government to bring charges against individuals arrested during the peaceful protests in  Copenhagen during the COP 15 last December.

The international movement for Climate Justice which organized the mobilizations in Copenhagen is composed of many hundreds and thousands of groups and individuals worldwide who represent the interests of the majority of the people of this world. As a person who feels represented by them, I strongly condemn the repression of the Danish state which aims to stifle dissent, a right which is the basis of any functioning democracy.

I add my voice to those who demand that the charges against Natasha Verco and Noah Weiss and the other climate prisoners, like Stine Gry, Tannie Nyboe, Malthe Ege, Mads Kissow and Tadzio Muller, are immediately dropped. Freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate are basic human rights, and the citizens of the world are astonished by the fact that charges are brought against people for the organization of legal protests in Denmark.

The actions of the Danish state not only threaten Danish democracy, but threaten to set a worrying precedent globally that dissenting voices must not be heard – repressing and criminalizing those who struggle for social justice, real democracy and human rights worldwide.

I urge the Danish government to take all these voices into consideration and to make sure that the climate prisonners are immediately released– the world is watching.

The current climate crisis is a global emergency. In Copenhagen thousands of people protested against the UNFCCC that was imposing false business solutions instead of solving the problem.

Today the struggle for climate justice is a duty, not a crime.

[ADDITIONAL COMMENTS, ADD THEM IN FORM BELOW]

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

 

Comments

Laws for the people

Dear Sir/Madam

I am writing to express my disappointment in hearing about the decision of the Danish government to bring charges against individuals arrested during the peaceful protests in Copenhagen during the COP 15 last December.

Protest is a fundamental right for all people. Without the right to protest, people lose their voice and when people lose their ability to be heard, democracy as we know it is dead.

Please do the right thing by the people.

Sincerely,
David Gleeson
Dublin, Ireland

Climate Change

We MUST support them. Climate change is *the* battle of the 21st century. Entrenched business interests are flooding the world with inaccurate data and outright lies--endangering the entire planet.

We have to support the people who put life and liberty at risk to help us all.

We have to support them

We have to support the people who put life and liberty at risk to help us all.

Where is the media?

Surprisingly I haven't heard about this in the US media.

Danish Court: Climate activists are innocent

August 31, 2010 -- The Copenhagen City Court has today ruled that Natasha Verco and Noah Weiss are innocent. The two climate activists were charged for organizing illegal activities during the COP15 summit in Copenhagen in 2009. But the charges didn't stand in court. The verdict discredits the violent methods adopted by police during the climate summit, when politically active people were denied their democratic right to criticize the climate negotiations.

Natasha Verco feels that the entire process has been absurd: "There has been a very clear political purpose behind these court cases, and the verdict is totally absurd. In the whole case the evidence has been related to fully legal activities, that the police has tried to manipulate, in order to make them appear illegal. It has been all from prints of posters, to finding parking lots fors sound equipments and participating in open information meetings for hundreds of people.”

Both Natasha and Noah feel, that the case has put an end to the police undemocratic methods: "I see this as a victory, not only for us, but for the legal rights in Denmark. And it also means that no longer can the police use manipulation of evidence and lies to repress politically active people. I assume that also Tannie and Stine, who are going to court in October, will be acquitted as well", says Noah Weiss.

Climate Collective
Phone: +45 50 58 87 51 media@climatecollective.org http://www.climatecollective.org/

Background:

2000 people have been arrested during the climate summit in December, and many were preventively arrested during the big climate demonstration on December 12th, 2009. These facts have since been criticized, among others, by Amnesty International. Now there are four people charged for having, according to police, planned actions during the summit. Among them are Natasha Verco, 32 years old Australian, and American student Noah Weiss. Natasha Verco and Noah Weiss are accused to having planned violence against police, disturbance of public order and vandalism. These are the charges, that could lead to several years of prison and deportation.

Background articles on the court cases (in Danish): Alle midler i brug mod miljøaktivister <http://www.information.dk/227862>

Surveillance, secret investigation and eventually custody were all employed against people that according to the police was planning illegal actions during the climate summit. Now it has to be decided, if they can be sentenced.

Diffus anklage mod aktivister <http://www.information.dk/227412>

The prosecutor saw one of the charges against the two defendants dropped. They are now only accused of planning criminal activities during the climate summit.

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