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Feds Target New Jersey Activists for Animal Rights

Feds Target New Jersey Activists for Animal Rights

Terror Task Force Agents Raid Leader's Home in Somerset County

Brian Donohue, Star-Ledger Staff, Friday, April 25, 2003

Federal agents from the Joint Terrorism Task Force raided a Somerset
County house this week that served as the headquarters for an animal
rights organization, authorites said yesterday. The raid on Wednesday
part of a nationwide investigation into possible criminal activities
the group, authorities said yesterday.

Investigators executed a search warrant on the home in Franklin
whose occupant is a leader of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, or SHAC,
said Special Agent Steve Kodak, a spokesman for the FBI's Newark

The group has conducted a years-long campaign against Huntingdon Life
Sciences, a company whose laboratory in Franklin Township uses
animals for
research purposes.

Bill Strazza, an attorney for SHAC, said the house, on Home Street
not far
from Rutgers University, serves as the organization's headquarters
and was
rented by Kevin Kjonaas, who is considered the main force behind the

Kjonaas, who is in his mid-20s and also goes by the name Kevin Jonas,
packed his belongings and was in the process of moving when agents
at the 1 1/2-story, red brick single-family home on Wednesday morning.
Investigators carted off "just about anything that wasn't nailed
including notebooks, private journals and computers, Strazza said.

Kjonaas, who was not arrested, served briefly as spokesman for the
Liberation Front, a loose organization of radical animal rights
which the FBI says is responsible for more than 600 cases of
nationwide. Those cases range from spray-painting buildings and
windows to firebombing fur farms and research centers, according to

Strazza, however, vehemently denied that Kjonaas or other SHAC
members are
involved in criminal activity. The group engages only in lawful
and protests, he said.

"I have never come across a group of people, let alone a group of
activists, who are more peacefully interested in the human condition,
the animal condition, than these people," Straza said yesterday.
"They are
pacifists and peace activists."

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark confirmed that
raid occurred, but declined to comment on the investigation. Kodak,
FBI spokesman, also declined comment on specifics of the

Strazza, however, said the raid was part of an ongoing investigation
by a
federal grand jury that has so far issued subpoenas in California,
and Chicago. The FBI has placed SHAC on a list of terrorist
he said.

"I think we are unfortunately in a political environment where
criminalizing dissent is becoming popular again," he said.

In another development Wednesday, the Joint Terrorism Task Force,
comprised of both state and federal agents, raided a home in Seattle,
Wash., as part of the same investigation, according to The Seattle
newspaper, which cited a search warrant on file in U.S. District
Court in

According to the Seattle warrant, agents are investigating suspected
arson, violations of federal interstate commerce statutes and
enterprise terrorism" -- terrorism against companies involved in
enterprises -- by radical animal rights groups.

The occupants of the Seattle home have been linked to animal rights
organizations, though it was unclear whether SHAC is among them.

Lawrence Lincoln, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in
declined to comment.

SHAC has targeted Huntingdon Life Sciences, its insurers and its
backers in its efforts to end the company's use of animals in
research. Founded in the United Kingdom, Huntingdon tests
and agricultural chemicals, mostly on animals. It has long been
by animal rights activists seeking to shut it down.

In 1997, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) lodged a
complaint against Huntingdon after the group conducted an undercover
investigation, which found that 36 beagles were to have their legs
in order to test an osteoporosis drug.

The experiment was called off and the U.S. Department of Agriculture
Huntingdon $50,000 for violating the Animal Welfare Act.

In April 2001, 14 beagles that were being used in tests were stolen
a break-in at the Huntingdon's lab in Franklin, hailed as a
by animal rights groups. In protests the next day, four animal rights
activists were arrested on various charges, including resisting
obstruction of justice and disorderly conduct.

Two months later, a judge ordered SHAC to stop holding protests of
than 50 people in front of the company's Franklin Park building,
restricting larger demonstrations to a park several hundred feet away.

In a February interview with The Star-Ledger, Sidney Caspersen,
of the state Office of Counter Terrorism, said his office had assigned
investigators to monitor hate groups and animal rights groups in New
Jersey and elsewhere for alliances with foreign nationals.

Staff writers Matthew Reilly and Matthew J. Dowling contributed to