Out of control:   Corruption www.policecorruption.com....Previously covered-up info.




The incident began when a Syrian national known as Amro Hassan entered Sweden at Arlanda Airport, Stockholm, with a consignment of 1,000 Horsfields tortoises (Testudo horsfieldi) but without the necessary import permit. The Syrian also had a Russian partner in this enterprise. Swedish customs and agricultural authorities immediately impounded the consignment. The animals were housed in a large shed and were provided with neither heat, food or drinking water. They were also sprayed with a cold water hose daily.

At this point, the authorities deviated from standard practice, as neither the Swedish Herpetological Society nor other reptile consultants available to them in Sweden were advised of the seizure or asked for technical advice on how to handle the animals. It is evident that the episode was intended to be handled entirely in secret. Ralph Tramontano, editor of the Swedish Herpetological Societies publication SNOKEN, says that "The Dept. of Agriculture in general is very secretive when it comes to regulating and usually tries to control, excessively in my opinion, who is allowed to know what they are considering".

News of the affair finally leaked out late on Wednesday evening, and Tortoise Trust member in Sweden e-mailed us at once when it became apparent from news reports that the authorities were a) keeping the tortoises in unsuitable conditions and b) seriously contemplating killing them all.

The Tortoise Trust responded by immediately posting messages to Internet Newsgroups including rec.pets.herps and sci.bio.herp, and simultaneously alerted by e-mail many other contacts around the world to the plight of these tortoises.
Early on Thursday morning we received additional information from a contact in Sweden. The authorities were now claiming that all of the tortoises were "too sick" to survive and that therefore, they should be killed at once. Our effort to save the animals moved into high gear. We faxed a formal offer to the Swedish Embassy in Britain offering to meet the full costs of sending the animals back to Tadzjikstan. We also offered to provide expert advice on maintaining the tortoises properly or on veterinary aspects. We are advised by the Swedish Embassy that this offer was forwarded by fax within 60 minutes to the Minister of Agriculture in Sweden.

Via the Internet, we requested conservationists, tortoise enthusiasts and animal welfare supporters to fax urgent letters to the Department of Agriculture in Sweden pleading for the tortoises to be saved, or at least for a delay whilst a rescue could be organised. At this point, we were contacted by WWF-Sweden who supported our call to save the animals and who were also desperately trying to persuade the authorities to change their minds. We are aware that many people around the world did fax their concerns to the Swedish authorities: faxes were sent from as far away as Japan, the US, South Africa and Australia. Veterinary surgeons, biologists and ordinary tortoise enthusiasts all pleaded with the authorities to think again.

As more details emerged, it became clear that the authorities were determined to slaughter the entire shipment by freezing them to death. We again faxed an urgent note to the authorities informing them that this is no longer regarded as a particularly safe or humane method of reptile euthanasia. Like our previous requests, this too was ignored.

The media in Sweden were contacted directly, and news of our offer to help find an alternative home or to repatriate the tortoises to Tadzjikistan was widely broadcast. SAS Airlines offered to fly to the tortoises free of charge back to Moscow. The media in Britain were also advised of the increasingly desperate nature of the fight to save these animals. Efforts continued throughout Thursday, well into the night, to publicise their plight and to persuade the authorities to back down. Dozens of faxes and hundreds of e-mails were sent to over 16 countries. Direct pressure on the Swedish authorities in Stockholm was also maintained, but by this time the officials involved had all become "unavailable" and were refusing to return calls.

On Friday morning (24th October) we learned the worst. Operatives of the Ministry of Agriculture had worked all through the night to slaughter the tortoises by freezing them to death in order to avoid the world-wide storm of protest which they knew was rapidly building up. All 1,000 Horsfields tortoises were now dead.

The lie that the tortoises were sick and that none could be saved was finally exposed when a spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture, in a TV interview, attempted to blame "CITES regulations" for the slaughter! It further emerged that only 48 hours earlier, Sweden had considered admitting the tortoises but that they also had "concerns that they might be sold". None of this accords with the present official line that all 1,000 tortoises were too sick to be saved.
It now seems that Department of Agriculture officials, headed by veterinarians Karin Cerenius and Ernst Mehnert, were determined from the beginning to press ahead with the slayings to set an example to other potential illegal importers.

It is perfectly true that the tortoises were in poor condition - a state not helped by the abominable conditions they were kept in by the Ministry of Agriculture for a week. It defies belief, however, that 100% of a 1,000 strong consignment were so ill that euthanasia was the only viable option.

It has also emerged that illegal animals of all kinds are ROUTINELY destroyed in Sweden, and that it is very rare indeed for an illegal shipment NOT to be killed.

The Department of Agriculture must also answer as to why no external, independent reptile experts (including specialist reptile veterinarians) were consulted during this incident, and why veterinary advice that their method of euthanasia was inhumane was entirely ignored. They must also answer as to why the killing was carried out in such apparent haste.


The Tortoise Trust is appalled at this horrific and utterly barbaric incident which is a disgrace to civilised standards of behaviour towards animals. Everyone who worked so desperately to save the tortoises is extremely upset, traumatised and angered by these events. Tortoise Trust Director, Andy C. Highfield, says "I have worked in animal welfare and conservation for 25 years, and this is absolutely the single worst incident I have ever encountered. I am completely sickened by the action of the Swedish authorities. We must not let the murder of these harmless creatures go unpunished and their deaths must not be in vain. We must ensure that nothing like this ever happens again".

To this end the Tortoise Trust is co-ordinating a world-wide boycott of all Swedish goods and services. Volvo cars, Sandvik tools and Hasselblad cameras are all specific targets of this economic campaign. Swedish timber products are also subject to this boycott which will remain in place until Karin Cerenius, Ernst Mehnert and the Minister of Agriculture, Annika Ahnberg, resign or are sacked.

We also demand a change in the policy towards seized animals. The present practice is barbaric, biologically wasteful and achieves absolutely nothing. Far better that confiscated animals are either returned to the wild or accommodated in zoos or with caring, responsible private keepers. We will campaign for this in Sweden, and will also press for concerted action throughout the EC to achieve the same objectives.


An Internet WWW site is now being prepared to offer full details of this case and all the latest campaign news. Support materials: Bumper stickers, badges, posters:- In preparation.You can also obtain details from the Tortoise Trust on 100105.555@compuserve.com or by mail from our office, Tortoise Trust, BM Tortoise, London, WC1N 3XX, England.

A massive petition is being organised for presentation via the EC. The purpose is to embarrass the Swedish government who have a reputation for endlessly lecturing other countries on their alleged human and animal rights abuses (!)

PLEASE write letters of protest to:

Annika Ahnberg
Department of Agriculture
S 103 33 Stockholm
Sweden Tel: +46 8 405 100 Fax: +46 8 20 64 96

Karin Cerenius
National Board of Agriculture
55182 Jonkoping
Sweden Tel:+46 36 155800 Fax::+46 36 715114

Copy all protest letters to your local Swedish Embassy or consulate and inform them that you will be supporting the boycott of all Swedish products and services as a direct result of the killing of these tortoises.

Re-post this notice in as many places as possible. The text may be used in newsletters or in information leaflets. It may be also transmitted and posted by e-mail.


IMAGE OF BUTTON.IMAGE OF BUTTON. Click here for details about a new book that all aviculturists and herpetologists should get hold of ASAP - Smuggled-2.

Click here for a recent review of the blockbuster book Smuggled-2 printed in an Australian newspaper.

Papers about reptiles and frogs - list of papers that can be downloaded via the internet.

Australian Reptiles and Frogs - The Definitive book on the subject.

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