Colombia Three ‘may well be extradited’

JUSTICE Minister Michael McDowell yesterday said the Colombia Three “may well” be extradited back to Colombia.

Speaking for the first time since the three fugitives came out of hiding, Mr McDowell said Ireland would “not become a haven” for people who breached international law and endangered other people.

“If there is a case to be made for their extradition to Colombia, if it’s lawful under Irish law, that is something which may well happen,” he said. The three - Niall Connolly, James Monaghan and Martin McCauley - fled Colombia last December after an appeals court sentenced them to 17 years for training guerrillas belonging to the FARC rebels.

Last Thursday, the trio, who had secretly entered Ireland prior to August, emerged from hiding and presented themselves by arrangement to gardaí.

Mr Connolly was the only one arrested and was questioned in connection with allegedly travelling on a false Irish passport.

Mr McDowell, who arrived home from holidays last Wednesday, was reported in some media as being angry about the stage-managed nature of the surrender and how he was informed just hours before it happened.

The minister yesterday rejected these reports: “I don’t know where that came from, I’m not angry.”

Mr McDowell said that, as far as he knew, the Colombian Government had still not made any formal request for extradition. He said there were a number of other legal possibilities being explored.

He said Tánaiste Mary Harney had already suggested that a Council of Europe convention on fugitive offenders could be used. This would involve the three serving their 17-year sentence in Ireland.

Mr McDowell said legislation implementing this convention was going through the Oireachtas.

However, Colombia was not a signatory to this convention and would need to join it, he said.

The minister said there was also the “possibility that the commission of serious offences in Ireland may have taken place”, but that this was a matter for the gardaí.

“The Irish State is based on democratic principles and the rule of law and will not become a haven for people who are perceived internationally of having breached the rule of law and endangered others.”

He added: “That trip to Colombia by members of the Provisional Movement was not done in my view for the purposes of advancing peace, but for the purposes of advancing terrorism.”

He said the technology given to the FARC rebels was subsequently used on innocent civilians.

He said the leaders of Sinn Féin bore responsibility for sending the three to Colombia, with false passports, and securing their return.

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