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Last Updated: Friday, 9 May, 2003, 09:30 GMT 10:30 UK
Penn allowed to sue Bing
Sean Penn
Penn visited Iraq in December
Actor Sean Penn has been given the green light to sue producer Steve Bing for allegedly dropping him from a movie because of his anti-war stance.

The Thin Red Line star is seeking $10m (6.2m) in damages from Bing, who made headlines after a bitter paternity battle with Elizabeth Hurley.

Los Angeles Judge Irving Feffer rejected Bing's attempts to halt the lawsuit because of a lack of evidence.

Bing is countersuing Penn for $15m (9.3m), accusing him of trying to extort money for a role in Why Men Shouldn't Marry, claiming the actor had never accepted the part.

Penn will attempt to get Bing's lawsuit dismissed at a hearing on 18 June.

Penn visited Iraq in December 2002 to give himself a clearer understanding of issues in the run-up to war and became a vociferous anti-war campaigner.

He filed the lawsuit in February after accusing Bing of "borrowing a page from the dark era of Hollywood blacklisting".

'Unprotected speech'

But Bing has hit back, saying Penn had stepped over the line by being photographed in Iraq standing in front of pictures of Saddam Hussein as the US prepared to go to war.

The producer said he does not owe Penn "one cent" and that the actor's anti-war talk was not protected by state labour laws guaranteeing free speech.

"Penn crossed over a bright line into unprotected speech when he publicly advocated the violent overthrow of the United States Government" in a British newspaper article, the lawsuit said.

The motion also accuses Penn of violating "any standard of decency by posing with portraits of Saddam Hussein and meeting with Hussein's henchman (former Deputy Prime Minister) Tariq Aziz" during his visit to Iraq last December.

Penn's lawsuit dismissed the argument as "nonsense."

"There is no authority supporting arguments that travelling to Iraq, being photographed with a picture of Saddam Hussein in the background, or meeting Tariq Aziz waives wrongful termination or any other kinds of claims," court papers said.

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