Flash: Extradition threat for Colombia 3
The three Irishmen known as the Colombia 3 have left the
country, it has emerged.
Colombian authorities have sought the men following a shock
decision to overturn their acquittal on charges of training
rebels in the country's civil war. The men -- Martin McCauley,
Jim Monaghan and Niall Connolly -- face 17 years behind bars
following the ruling by an appeal court in Bogota.
The men spent three years behind bars after their arrest in
2001, but were vindicated when their trial judge cleared them of
the most serious charges earlier this year.
The men were released on bail while the Colombian Attorney
General appealed the decision, and went into hiding in fear of
attack by right-wing paramilitaries.
Now there is shock and anger in Ireland at the attempts by the
Colombian authorities to return the men to prison, where they
face an increased threat of assassination.
In Belfast, unionists expressed delight at the turn of events.
But Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams was outraged.
He said: "This is a grievous miscarriage of justice which will
come as no great surprise given the record of human rights
abuses by the Colombian government."
Sinn Fein Assembly member Gerry Kelly described the verdict as
"an enormous denial of justice"
"There is disbelief and anger that the men have been sentenced
to 17 years despite the fact that they had no case to answer. I
am calling on the Irish government to intervene and demand that
the men are immediately brought home."
Mr. Kelly said the men had their basic rights denied "from the
very moment of their arrest".
"There was extensive false reporting in the media and the
investigation was closed before key witnesses were interviewed.
"There was persistent political interference in the judicial
"No evidence was presented to substantiate any of the serious
charges laid against these men.
"It was obvious to anyone who followed the trial that the men
had no case to answer on the major charge. There was no forensic
evidence against the men and key prosecution witnesses were
discredited when all three Irishmen were able to prove to the
court that they were not in Colombia on the dates the witnesses
claimed to have seen them.
"Despite being found innocent by the court that examined the
case against the men, they have now been sentenced to 17 years
"Today's verdict is a breath-taking denial of justice. There is
disbelief and anger at what has occurred today. I am calling on
the Irish government to intervene and demand that the men are
brought home immediately."
Caitriona Ruane, who fronted the Bring Them Home project, has
contacted the Dublin Government, urging high-level officials to
She said: "This should never have happened, this is a political
decision that we were not expecting."
Ms Ruane said today she had no idea of the men's whereabouts.
"I do not know where they are at the moment," she insisted.
"The last time I saw them was the night we took them out of jail
Colombian authorities have said they will seek to extradite the
men from their current location, which remains unknown.