Seven animal-rights activists were arrested Wednesday on charges they organized a campaign of intimidation and harassment against a company that tests pharmaceuticals on animals.
Prosecutors said the group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty USA and its followers employed vandalism, stalking, computer hacking and blitzes of e-mail, telephone calls and faxes to put pressure on Huntingdon Life Sciences, a British company that has laboratories in New Jersey.
The animal rights group did not immediately return phone and e-mail messages.
A year ago, the FBI’s domestic terrorism squad seized computers and printed materials at the group’s headquarters in Franklin Township and a house in Seattle.
Arrests on both coasts
A resident of that house, Joshua Harper, was among those arrested Wednesday. Arrests were also made in New Jersey, New York and California.
The conspiracy charge against all the defendants carries up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Three of the activists were also charged with stalking with is punishable by up to five years. The animal rights group itself was also indicted.
Critics claim Huntingdon kills hundreds of animals a day and treats them cruelly for unnecessary research. Huntingdon says that its research saves human lives.
“So many people have been victimized by this lawless campaign,” Huntingdon Life Sciences said in a statement. “These indictments are in keeping with this nation’s long tradition of standing up to bullies.”
The indictment accuses the animal rights group of targeting Huntingdon workers and shareholders, as well as companies that provide services to Huntingdon, by posting personal information about targets on its Web sites and encouraging followers to “operate outside the confines of the legal system.”
Tactics include e-mail barrage
Protesters have appeared at the homes of at least three Huntingdon employees after such postings, overturning a car at one house and slashing tires and spray-painting slogans at another, the indictment said.
In December, computer hackers disabled the Huntingdon Web site.
Other attacks described in the indictment included a barrage of more than 2 million e-mails sent in a few hours on July 11, 2001, to a Jersey City brokerage that handled Huntingdon stock, damaging its operations.
The brokerage, which was not identified, allegedly got a letter from one of the defendants, asserting that if the brokerage stopped handling Huntingdon, “this should bring a prompt end to the phone calls and faxes and e-mails your company is receiving.”