Delay hits trial sparked by killing

A trial sparked by the shooting of an Irishman branded an international terrorist by the Bolivian government is to start next month.

Judges were expected to start trying 39 men accused over an alleged terror plot including a presidential assassination on Wednesday.

However, they postponed it for nearly eight more weeks — and decided to hold it in a different city — after several defendants claimed they were too ill to attend.

The hold-up came as Michael Dwyer’s parents Caroline and Martin, and sister Aisling continued their fight to clear his name over claims he was involved in a plot to kill Bolivian president Evo Morales.

Bolivian security forces shot him and two other men dead in a hotel in Santa Cruz, 560km east of the capital La Paz, on Apr 16, 2009. Authorities in the South American country claim the 24-year-old from Ballinderry in Co Tipperary was killed during a shootout.

Mr Dwyer’s family have accused the Bolivian government of concocting the terrorism allegation and believe he was executed.

Hungarian Elod Toaso, one of two men arrested at the hotel where Mr Dwyer was killed and now facing trial, said security forces carried out a “cold-blooded execution”.

Speaking during a break in a court appearance on Wednesday where Judge Claudio Torres decided to transfer the trial from Santa Cruz to La Paz, he said: “There was no confrontation. Michael and the two other men were executed within five minutes.

“If there had been a shootout, there would have been shots fired outside the hotel and police officers injured.”

Seven of the 39 people charged over the alleged terror plot blamed ill health for their failure to attend the court hearing in Santa Cruz, where three citizen judges who will act as jury members were sworn in.

Another 17 suspects thought to have had arrest warrants issued against them were missing.

The trial date in La Paz was scheduled for July 23.

Mr Dwyer’s family have lobbied MEPs in Brussels for support in their campaign for an international inquiry into his killing.

They have also submitted documents to the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Christof Heyns, in hopes of exercising further influence.

An inquest carried out by the Dublin County Coroner in Oct 2009 found Mr Dwyer had died following a shot to the heart and that the autopsy carried out in Bolivia was incomplete.

Ireland South MEP Sean Kelly has said the EU should review future funding to Bolivia if the authorities there refuse to clarify why and how the Tipperary man, who had gone to Bolivia to train in the security business, died.

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