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Sean Penn appears in a still from the 2003 film, 21 Grams. - Provided courtesy of Focus Films Inc.

Sean Penn helped secure Americans' release from Iran, report says

09/26/2011 by Corinne Heller

Sean Penn may have helped secure the recent release of two Americans held captive in Iran, a report says.

The 51-year-old actor, who has long been engaged in humanitarian issues, flew to Venezuela to talk about their plight with President Hugo Chavez, a critic of the United States and an ally of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Reuters news wire said.

Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer were freed last week after more than two years in captivity following diplomatic efforts led by Chavez, the United Nations, Iraq and Oman. The two said they were hikers and had gotten lost near the Iranian border. Tehran convicted them of espionage and sentenced them to eight years in prison.

"Penn was very committed to the case," Reuters quoted a source as saying. "He flew to Caracas several months ago to raise it with Chavez and he kept on it."

Penn's spokesperson had no immediate comment about the report. The actor is known for his involvement in humanitarian causes and took part in relief efforts to help survivors of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as well as those displaced by the 2010 Haiti Earthquake.

Chavez is deemed a socialist by the United States. He heads South America's biggest oil exporter and is currently seeking re-election in 2012. Chavez has met with Penn in the past. The actor has defended him as a democrat and had said that journalists who call him a dictator should be jailed.

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