Government urged to bring Colombia Three home

THE Government was urged today to stand up and fight for the return home of three Irishmen forced into hiding in Colombia after being cleared of terrorism charges.

Niall Connolly, James Monaghan and Martin McCauley, who all have links with the IRA, left Bogota’s La Modelo prison two weeks ago but must stay in the country pending an appeal.

Caitriona Ruane, the trio’s spokeswoman, said the men had left prison for their own safety but that the Irish Government should be doing more to ensure their safe return home.

“Of course the Irish Government can do more, these men should be at home and it is wrong what is happening to them.

“The Irish Government should be standing up and fighting for the rights of these men.”

The trio were convicted on a charge of carrying fake passports and paid fines allowing them to taste freedom for the first time in almost three years.

They were arrested in August 2001 in Bogota’s airport after returning from a region controlled by the country’s largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

After a lengthy trial, Judge Jaime Acosta found the trio innocent in April of charges of training the Marxist rebels in bomb-making, but guilty of travelling on false passports.

He sentenced them to time served and fined them the equivalent of €6,450 apiece.

The men are now in hiding in the country for fear right-wing Colombian death squads will attempt to murder them.

Ms Ruane said there was growing concern around Ireland that the Government was not doing enough to address the issue with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

“During the last three years they (the Government) have intervened once with him (Mr Uribe) and that was a couple of weeks ago.

“What people are saying to me throughout this country is that if these three men were from France, or Germany or England that they would be home by now.”

Ms Ruane also dismissed claims that the trio had hired private, armed security guards to guarantee their safety in Colombia.

She added the men were forced to make a clear-cut decision not to avail of Colombian state security as they did not trust it.

Ms Ruane said it was obvious over two years ago that there was no evidence against the men and claimed the legal process was flawed.

While efforts made by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at an EU/South American summit meeting in Mexico in May were welcomed, Ms Ruane said she would demand more action at a meeting with Government officials later this week.

More in this section

IE_180_logo
Price info

Subscribe to unlock unlimited digital access.
Cancel anytime.

Terms and conditions apply

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.