Any decision on Colombia Three must be examined very carefully

EVEN though many people might like to know what Martin McCauley, Niall Connolly and James Monaghan were doing in Colombia, it should be recalled that, at their first trial, they were found not guilty.

However, not having obtained the verdict the authorities seemed to want, there was a second trial, in which they were found guilty and sentenced to 17 years in a Colombian prison.

That second trial has since been condemned by Senator Mary White who said “the appeal hearing in the case was held in private, with no new evidence and no lawyers”.

Should there be a case for their arrest under Irish law, for an infringement of the law in Ireland, let them face the courts in Ireland.

Anyone harbouring notions that they should either be handed back to the Colombian authorities or that Ireland should carry out Colombia’s laws by proxy should read Ingrid Betancourt’s memoirs, Until Death Do Us Part.

Ms Betancourt, who stood for election to the presidency of Colombia on an anti-corruption, anti-drug cartel platform, was kidnapped in February 2002, shortly before the election and has not yet been released by her captors.

While these may be FARC guerrillas, they may equally be persons acting for those in high places, many of whom may have been resentful of Ms Betancourt’s principled stand against the narcotics industry and the political corruption associated with it.

The book vividly describes what political life is like in Colombia and how deeply drug corruption has penetrated the social and political life of the country.

What has the Colombian government done about the kidnapping of such a courageous member of its own people?

Last month, Vincent Browne reminded us that these men were “acquitted by the (first) court that heard all the evidence, assessed the credibility of witnesses and heard submissions from the prosecution and defence”.

On the other hand, the appeal court which later found them guilty “heard no evidence, was in no position to assess the credibility or reliability of witnesses and heard no submissions”.

John Robb

New Ireland Group

59 Hopefield Ave

Portrush

Co Antrim

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