Eleven suspected animal rights extremists arrested

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Eleven people suspected of being involved in animal rights extremist activities were arrested yesterday. Police were unable to say whether the arrests were connected to recent threats made to private shareholders of the drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline but did not rule it out.

Europe's biggest drug maker secured a rare High Court injunction on Tuesday night against an unknown group of animal rights activists, preventing them from publicising names of its shareholders. The move made illegal any attempt by campaigners to carry out their threat to publish on a website the names of private investors who refuse to sell their shares in GSK within a fortnight. It is the first time such an injunction has been granted to a company in Britain.

West Mercia Police detained four men and seven women in raids. Arrests were made in Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire, Gloucestershire and the West Midlands, and items were seized. The 11 were released on bail while the investigation into alleged offences under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, which became law last year, continues.

On Monday, GSK was inundated with calls from investors who had received threatening letters from Campaign against Huntingdon Life Sciences, a previously unheard of group. HLS is an animal testing company used by GSK. The animal rights group, which industry insiders suspect may include activists from other known groups, threatened to write to all GSK shareholders. It has 170,000 private investors listed on its share registry.

GSK said it was "greatly concerned" shareholders were being targeted in this way, but reiterated its involvement with HLS.