Irish jury acquits axe-attackers on US plane

Dublin - A jury here has acquitted five protesters who admitted damaging a US Navy cargo plane with hammers and an axe.

The five were arrested at Shannon Airport, a major refuelling point for US military transports to and from Iraq, in 2003 after damaging the aircraft and erecting a makeshift "peace shrine" beside it.

The five said they had thought they could save lives in Iraq by vandalising the plane, which had been damaged by axe-wielding protesters in an earlier demonstration.

After a 12-day trial, a jury accepted the protesters' argument and found them not guilty on two counts each of "causing damage without lawful excuse".

If convicted, the five could have faced fines or sentences of up to 10 years in prison.

The US embassy here said it was "disappointed with the verdict" and would discuss the implications of the case with Irish officials.

Sinn Fein, the political arm of the Irish Republican Army, said vandalising US aircraft was "a justified response to Irish complicity in the illegal occupation of Iraq and use of Irish facilities as a pit stop for US warplanes".

- Sapa-AP

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