Press Release
May 9, 2012
Coalition against BAYER Dangers

Germany: Series of Break-Ins at Activist's Office

The police are investigating / Suspicion about non-state agents / Actions against BP, TEPCO and BAYER / support by attac Germany

Over the last months, the office of well-known activist Axel Koehler-Schnura in the German city of Duesseldorf was broken into three times. Several changes of the lock system could not prevent this. Koehler-Schnura's computer system was also attacked by hackers.

The burglars stole data carriers that were connected to Koehler-Schnura's political work, such as his personal notebook, his mobile phone and his camera. The police were informed and are currently investigating.

The police assume that the burglars are professionals, as they left no traces in spite of security systems, and agree that a connection to Koehler-Schnura's political work seems plausible. The old lock systems, which have been replaced by new ones, were given to the police for technical examination in the laboratory.

Axel Koehler-Schnura is a founding member of several German organisations that criticise large companies. Among those organisations are the Coalition against Bayer Dangers, an organisation criticising the pharmaceutical company Bayer, the Dachverband Kritischer Aktionäre (Association of Ethical Shareholders Germany), the Bundesverband Bürgerinitiativen Umweltschutz or BBU (Federal Organisation of Citizens' Initiatives for Environmental Protection) and the foundation ethecon, which promotes ethical principles in the economy. He was a member of the steering committees at the European Social Forums in Florence and Paris (2002 and 2003), dealing with the issue of multinational companies. In late April 2012 he spoke at Bayer’s annual stockholder meeting as a critical stockholder.

Köhler-Schnura received several awards for his activism: the Business Crime Control Prize in 1998, the Preis Zivilcourage (Civil Courage Prize) in 2000, and the Henry Mathews Prize in 2011. In 2008 he was nominated for the Right Livelihood Award.

In his role as a member of the ethecon foundation, Axel Köhler-Schnura is currently preparing the presentation of the ethecon Black Planet Award to the representatives of TEPCO who are responsible for the catastrophe in Fukushima. There are plans for actions in Tokyo by parties from various countries. When he tried to issue the ethecon Black Planet Award 2010 to officials at BP, there were attempts to prevent this through having him arrested by the police. His voluntary critical activities have been investigated several times by Bayer’s company security guards and by the Verfassungsschutz, the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

The discussion about 'Green Scare' made it clear that large companies as well as public authorities habitually violate basic constitutional principles, and that they are involved in covert operations against democratic movements. In Switzerland there is currently a court trial against Nestlé because the company infiltrated a group of the political activist organisation attac. Conspicuous highlights of such undemocratic practices are the mysterious car accident of American anti-nuclear activist Gay Silkwood in 1974 and the violent death of a Greenpeace member in 1985 caused by a bomb from the French secret service.

The Coalition against Bayer Dangers, attac Germany, Multiwatch (Switzerland), the foundation ethecon, the Association of Ethical Shareholders Germany and the Bundesverband Bürgerinitiativen Umweltschutz issued the following statement:

“The right to freedom of speech and social and political basic rights are severely violated. The attacks on Axel Koehler-Schnura are also directed against the organisations he works for. The aim of the attacks is to intimidate critical citizens and make criticism impossible. This is done in the interest of corporate powers. Covert operations against activists - whether they are organised by the government or by private bodies - present a grave danger to democracy.

We condemn all covert operations that aim to intimidate, spy, place false information, impede legal activism or cause costly damages. It does not matter whether these operations are conducted by secret services, by companies or whether they are carried out by security firms. They are always in stark contrast to constitutional democratic rights and are a severe danger to a democratic society. Democracy must be protected against increasing violations by governmental and corporate parties.”