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Animal rights activists subpoenaed by grand jury: FBI steps up hunt for fugitive accused of 2003 bombings
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Local animal rights activists have been subpoenaed to testify later this month before a federal grand jury investigating a fugitive wanted in the 2003 bombings of two Bay Area companies, said lawyers representing some of those called to appear.
Daniel Andreas San Diego, accused of setting off explosives at Chiron Corp., an Emeryville biotechnology firm, and at Shaklee, a Pleasanton company that sells health, beauty and household products, went into hiding shortly after the bombings, when a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Before he disappeared, a group calling itself Revolutionary Cells took responsibility for the blasts that caused minor structure damage but no human injuries. E-mails sent out to followers of the animal rights movement said the group had singled out the two firms because of their links to Huntingdon Life Sciences. The New Jersey research company conducted drug and chemical experiments on the animals for clients such as Chiron and Shaklee's then- parent company.
Now, the federal government seems to be stepping up its efforts to find San Diego. Last month the U.S. attorney's office in San Francisco subpoenaed at least 10 people -- the majority animal rights activists -- to appear before a grand jury on June 22 and July 13, said Mark Vermeulen, an attorney who is representing one of those who received a subject letter. Vermeulen wouldn't disclose the identity of his client but said that he was acquainted with San Diego through the animal rights movement.
Vermeulen said his client had been ordered to bring any documents, letters, photographs or electronic correspondence he'd had with San Diego since Oct. 5, 2003 -- the day the suspect absconded.
But the lawyer said he believed that the government was using its search for San Diego as an excuse to intimidate protesters. Vermeulen doesn't think it's a coincidence that his client and the others were called to testify in San Francisco at the same time as animal activists are being prosecuted in New Jersey on enterprise terror charges, he said.
"I think the feds would like to discombobulate (West Coast) supporters of the defendants in the New Jersey case," he said. "Some of the people subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury would have gone back to New Jersey to be present at the trial. Now, they can't."
Kelah Bott, a San Francisco animal rights activist who knows seven of the people who were subpoenaed, said the movement saw the grand jury as a fishing expedition.
"We don't think this is about Daniel San Diego," she said. "We think they're using this as an excuse to learn as much as they can about the movement. And we look at it as harassment.
"As far as I know, no one that has been subpoenaed so far plans to cooperate," she continued.
Bott, a 31-year-old bookkeeper, said she and the seven people called to appear before the grand jury knew San Diego but hadn't been in touch with him since he vanished in 2003.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office declined to comment. LaRae Quy, a spokeswoman for the FBI, said she was barred by law from discussing anything to do with the grand jury.
All federal grand jury proceedings are held in secret. Lawyers may consult with clients about their testimony before a grand jury hearing but are forbidden from actually attending the proceedings.