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Presentation of the english subtitled version of Operation Spring
A film by Angelika Schuster & Tristan Sindelgruber
Austria 2005, 94 Min., Colour, Stereo
German/English, Subtitles: English

Sunday 2nd of October 2005 at 3 p.m.
Stadtkino am Schwarzenbergplatz
Schwarzenbergplatz 7-8
A-1030 Vienna

Free entry 4 migrants & asylum seekers
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[ 08. Sep 2005 ]

Screening of the english subtitled version of Operation Spring

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Operation Spring is a documentary thriller about how Austria recently tested its new laws and methods of investigation. It is a step by step unravelling of the actual events and a meticulous study of the core incriminating evidence as seen from different angles. (Screening: Sun, 2nd of Oct 2005, Vienna)


Early in the morning on May 27, 1999, 850 police officers stormed apartments and refugee dormitories throughout Austria. The code name for the police raid is "Operation Spring," it was the largest police operation launched since 1945. In all, some 100 Africans were arrested. According to news reports it marked an unparalleled victory for the police in the fight against organized crime. The media claimed that thanks to the help of the first "great bugging operation", the authorities managed to arrest the bosses of an international Nigerian drug ring. In the years to follow what evolves out of this are the largest criminal proceedings directed against Africans in Austria. Almost everyone accused is eventually convicted. The total sentence amounts to several hundred years of imprisonment.

In the beginning, the film explores the difficulties encountered by the police and the court in managing the new investigation methods and analyzing the procured data, however, as the film progresses, the events become increasingly menacing, taking on a Kafkaesque quality. The different sides of the story are presented by people directly involved who describe what they experienced at the time and how they perceived the events. Among them are a judge, lawyers, an official of the Ministry of Justice, a former principal witness, and a convicted and imprisoned African. The film also follows the last, still pending "Operation Spring" trial, which was reopened in the fall of 2003 for the third time. New developments and questions arising from this trial subsequently shed a different light on the Operation Spring trials as a whole.

The film poses the question of whether the defendants ever stood a chance of receiving a fair trial

Director`s statement

The events surrounding the police investigation "Operation Spring" dominated Austrian news for several weeks. Considered to be a great success in the fight against organized crime, it also served as an opportunity to test new laws and investigative methods such as the so-called "great bugging operation" and the use of anonymous, completely masked witnesses for the prosecution in court.

"Operation Spring" set a precedent through the introduction of controversial investigative techniques and reinterpretation of certain laws. This raised a number of questions: How can a person defend him or herself against the testimony of witnesses whose identity is kept secret, are masked when they appear in court, and who testify in the defendant"s absence?

And what about a charge of selling "an amount of heroin and cocaine which can no longer be determined, though no less than "a certain number of grams or kilograms, to "unknown buyers" at an "unknown location"?

One extremely important issue is the value currently attached to basic democratic rights when members of a minority are suspected of belonging to a criminal organization. Our intention in making the film OPERATION SPRING was, on the basis of a concrete example, to contribute to the timeless discussion of basic human rights, which demonstrates the universal character of this theme.