Belfast Telegraph

Anti-war activist will 'maintain outrage' Chelsea Manning was jailed

An anti-war activist who has served time in a US prison says while he is relieved Chelsea Manning's sentence has been commuted he will "maintain outrage" she was jailed in the first place.

Ciaron O'Reilly, an Australian who lives in Dublin has campaigned alongside Ms Manning's family for six years since he heard the former intelligence analyst, then known as Bradley, had been arrested in Baghdad.

Mr O'Reilly, 56, who was jailed for 13 months in 1991 after disarming a bomber plane headed for Iraq on the eve of the Gulf War, said: "I have been quite distressed about the suicide attempts.

"It is a relief to know an end is in sight while I maintain outrage for her ever being in jail."

Mr O'Reilly, a member of the Catholic Worker Movement, spent time in prisons in Oklahoma and Louisiana after being arrested at Griffiss Air Force Base in New York, where the group he was part of put the plane out of action for three months.

Although Mr O'Reilly was in federal prisons and county jails while Ms Manning is in a military prison, he empathises with her suffering, which included two suicide attempts last year, according to her lawyers.

Mr O'Reilly said: "I know the physical and mental health problems associated with being in jail.

"The whole system is designed to frighten and break you and to make you feel like you will be forgotten.

"It was very crowded - there were 24 of us in a cage. I was the only white guy in prison which made it culturally interesting.

"But it (anti-war activism) felt like the right thing to do and what I went through was so much less than people in Iraq who have lost their children."

Mr O'Reilly also faced three trials before being acquitted for disarming a US navy warplane at Shannon Airport in Ireland in 2003.

He has since met Ms Manning's family at events in their home town of Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire and at events in Dublin.

Mr O'Reilly said: "They are from a pretty small town so it was quite a shock to have the FBI turn up at Chelsea's mother's house. They are quite shy, reserved people.

"They were quite isolated. When I was in prison my biggest worry was my mother and father's welfare so our aim has been to surround Susan Manning (Chelsea's mother) with support.

"It has been a tough time, I am sure."

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