The Government is to pay €17,000 to secure the freedom of three Irishmen cleared of training FARC rebel guerillas in Colombia.
The trio, James Monaghan, Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly, were acquitted in the Bogota capital of the South American state this week after being in custody for more than 30 months.
But they were convicted of travelling with false passports, with 58-year-old Monaghan jailed for 44 months, McCauley, 41, for 36 months and Connolly, 38, for five months.
A bond of €17,000 was fixed by the court to secure the early release and return to Ireland of the men, known to their supporters as the “Colombia Three.”
Confirming the move to pay, Junior Foreign Minister Tom Kitt said the funds will be made available to satisfy the terms of “conditional freedom” under Colombian law.
At the request of the three men’s defence team, his department had indicated willingness to advance the sum required.
But Junior Minister Kitt stressed that the money was being provided on condition that it would be repaid.
In addition to authorising their release from prison, the trial judge has the power to permit the men to return to Ireland after payment of the bond.
The authorities are today awaiting confirmation from the men’s legal representatives that the bond had been paid and that the formal request for the men’s return to Ireland had been submitted to the judge.
Mr Kitt said the Government understood that the Colombian attorney general had indicated an intention to appeal against the judgment in the trial of the men and also called for the three to be kept in Colombia pending the appeal.
But the minister added: “It is not yet clear if he will in fact lodge such an application.”