Colombia Three: Gardaí to travel to Colombia

Gardaí are expected to travel to Colombia as part of their investigation into three Irishmen convicted of training rebels there, it emerged tonight.

Gardaí are expected to travel to Colombia as part of their investigation into three Irishmen convicted of training rebels there, it emerged tonight.

The alleged IRA members, known as the Colombia Three, unexpectedly appeared in Ireland earlier this month after being on the run since the December convictions.

Justice Minister Michael McDowell today told a Cabinet meeting that no extradition warrant for the men has yet been issued by the South American country.

A Government spokesman said: “The Cabinet heard that gardaí have been in touch with police authorities in Colombia through Interpol.

“Mr McDowell also indicated that it was probable that there will be a trip by gardaí to Colombia to make further inquiries.”

The Garda Press Office would not comment tonight on the specific purpose of this proposed journey.

James Monaghan, Niall Connolly and Martin McCauley presented themselves at Dublin garda stations two weeks ago for voluntary garda questioning about how they arrived in Ireland.

Mr Connolly was later arrested on a charge of obtaining a false Irish passport and detectives sent a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions on the matter.

Gardaí have been investigating how the three men got back to Ireland.

There have been Opposition calls for the men either to be returned to Colombia, or to serve their jail sentences in Ireland.

Authorities in Colombia have yet to make an extradition request for the men.

The whereabouts of the three men, who were convicted in their absence of training rebels in Colombia, has been unknown since one of them appeared on RTE on August 5.

They were first arrested four years ago and were initially acquitted of charges of training FARC rebels.

They were sentenced to 17 years in jail last December following an appeal by Colombia’s state prosecutor.

Their re-appearance came a week after the IRA’s July 28 pledge to end its 36-year armed campaign and pursue its aims through peaceful means.

The three men were arrested at Bogota’s El Dorado Airport in August 2001 as they boarded an international flight.

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