Anti-war protesters found not guilty of damaging plane

Five anti-war protesters have been found not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court of criminally damaging a US aeroplane at Shannon Airport more than three years ago.

Five anti-war protesters have been found not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court of criminally damaging a US aeroplane at Shannon Airport more than three years ago.

The jury of five men and seven women took four and a half hours to reach its unanimous decision on day 12 of the trial which had been continuously attended by supporters of the activists.

It was the third attempt at trying the five who pleaded not guilty to two counts each of causing damage without lawful excuse to a naval plane, property of the United States government and to glass door panels, property of Aer Rianta at Shannon Airport, Clare on February 3, 2003.

Juries in two earlier trials were discharged before evidence had concluded following suggestions from the defence teams that the presiding judges were, or could have been perceived to have been, biased.

The accused at all stages accepted that they had gone into a Shannon Airport hangar with hammers and damaged the aircraft. They argued that they had a lawful excuse for doing so as they honestly believed they were acting to protect lives and property in Iraq.

Judge Miriam Reynolds discharged the group and left the court but returned when supporters burst into a round of applause telling them their behaviour was "understandable" but not acceptable in a court room.

The five are Ciaran O’Reilly, aged 46, an Australian national, Nuin Dunlop, aged 34, a US citizen and counsellor, Damien Moran, aged 26, Karen Fallon, aged 35, a Scottish marine biologist, all of Rialto Cottages, Rialto; and Deirdre Clancy, aged 36, a copy editor of Alverno Apartments, Clontarf.

The jury has been told that a lone garda was on duty in the hangar at 3.45am when five people came running in carrying hammers and an axe or mattock.

Evidence was given that they were shouting "some words of God" and went to the front, side and rear of the aircraft using the items to hit the plane. They then knelt in a circle and prayed until gardai arrived to arrest them.

Copies of the Bible and Koran, Rosary and Islamic prayer beads, candles, flowers, St Bridget’s crosses and photographs of distressed children were among the items found at the scene in the form of a shrine at the doors to the hangar.

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