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Actor Martin Sheen supports Australian Catholic peace activist

US actor Martin Sheen, who plays the US president in the television program West Wing, has "pardoned" an Australian peace activist facing charges of causing over $4.5 million in damage to a US military jet.

Sheen symbolically pardoned peace activist Ciaron O'Reilly who, along with four others, has been charged with damaging the jet during an anti Iraq war protest in Ireland in February.

The Australian was one of five members of the Pit Stop Ploughshares organisation, which entered Shannon Airport near Limerick on 3 February, poured human blood on the runway and then used hammers to batter the US Navy warplane.

O'Reilly, originally from Brisbane, faces 10 years in jail if convicted. He spent more than a year behind bars in the US for similar actions in "disarming" a B-52 bomber on the eve of the 1991 Gulf War, the group's website says.

O'Reilly is scheduled to appear in the Kilrush Circuit Court for trial on 24 June.

A statement attributed to Sheen published on the Pit Stop Ploughshares website says: "The action of these brave and committed young people at Shannon sprang from the command of the prophet Isaiah to "beat swords into ploughshares and study war no more" in compliance with the gospel of the non-violent Jesus as well as the Nuremburg principles.

"As a fellow Catholic peace activist I am compelled to support them in their struggle for peace and social justice and their efforts to gain a fair trial with a `necessity defence' which has thus far been thwarted," Sheen said.

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Pitstop Ploughshares | "Pit Stop Ploughshares Community" pardoned by u.s. president
Remembering Forgetting by Ciaron O'Reilly
Would You Believe (RTE Ireland TV documentary)

27 May 2003