Colombia seeks return of three Irish men

The Government has received documentation from the Colombian authorities relating to three Irishmen convicted of training left wing rebels in the south American country, it emerged tonight.

The Government has received documentation from the Colombian authorities relating to three Irishmen convicted of training left wing rebels in the south American country, it emerged tonight.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice in Dublin said papers had been received and would be examined by officials in consultation with the Attorney General’s office.

The Colombian government has said it wants to have James Monaghan, Niall Connolly and Martin McCauley returned to the South American country to serve 17 years in jail, which they were sentenced to in their absence last December.

Justice Minister Michael McDowell said he was waiting to study the documents before discussing the matter.

“I haven’t seen them yet,” he said.

“Out of respect to the Colombian authorities I won’t comment or speculate until I have the opportunity to study them in full.”

The Government has previously stated that any request to return the three men would have to be considered by the country’s courts. As no extradition treaty exists between the two states, doubt has been cast on whether any such move could be successful.

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

But they were sentenced to 17 years in jail in their absence last December following an appeal by Colombia’s state prosecutor.

The whereabouts of the three men was unknown until one of them appeared on Irish television on August 5.

Their re-appearance in Ireland 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 presented themselves at Dublin garda stations in mid August 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 also been calls from Opposition parties and Unionists in Northern Ireland for the men either to be returned to Colombia, or to serve their jail sentences in Ireland.

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