TRIAL 'IN RUINS' AFTER COLOMBIAN PRESIDENT INTERVENES
The International observers who have just returned from Colombia
with heightened concern say that it is now impossible for the
three Irishmen facing charges of training rebels to receive a
fair trial. These include Irish Parliamentarians, Sean Crowe,
T.D, Senator Mary White, and Irish, US and Australian lawyers.
They have requested an urgent meeting with Brian Cowen, Dublin's
Minister for Foreign Affairs.
The trial without a jury of Mr Niall Connolly, Mr Martin McCauley
and Mr James Monaghan - known as the Colombia Three - has been
postponed until next month.
Caitriona Ruane, spokesperson for the Bring Them Home Campaign
said the latest comments by President Uribe in Newsweek magazine
this week, in which he claimed the men were guilty, had
reinforced their belief that the mens' right to a fair trial had
During an interview with the US news magazine, Mr Uribe was asked
if he believed the FARC guerrillas were part of an "international
In reply, Mr Uribe, claimed that the threat posed by FARC was
equal to one posed by Saddam Hussein, said: "We have in jail some
IRA members who came to help the FARC."
An angry Ms Ruane said: "This trial is a sham, the current and
ex-President of the Country have declared the men guilty
throughout the world.
"Inside the Presidential office the trial is over. They are not
even interested in the defence evidence or due process. President
Uribe is using these three men to internationalise the war in his
country and request further aid from the United States".
Ms. Ruane described the trial as "a sham".
"We have said from the outset that no evidence will be produced
against these three Irishmen. Nothing, absolutely nothing has
happened to change our understanding of this case."
"The only so-called eyewitness produced in court claimed that he
saw three men training the FARC in February 2001. This is a lie
and a complete fabrication."
She said the three men were not in Colombia on these dates and
had through their lawyers totally repudiated this fabrication
"and can prove it".
She described President Uribe's intervention as "very serious".
"He has now moved beyond permitting negative publicity and he
himself has declared the men guilty mid trial." It could no
longer be said that the trial process exists, she added, adding
that the declarations of guilt have placed the observer
delegation and others supporting due process in danger.
"All of these comments have endangered the lives of the
delegation who have publicly been accused of being terrorists in
Colombia and threatened while the Colombian Police and army
The Colombian president has also been condemned by Sinn Fein for
prejudging the case.
Sinn Fein TD Mr Sean Crowe also said the criticisms by the
Progressive Democrats of Fianna Fail senator Mary White were
"ill-informed, petty and vindictive".
Last week, Senator White, who attended the trial as an observer,
called on the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Cowen, to
intervene with his Colombian counterpart to have the trial
"I have now attended two sessions of this trial as part of an
international team of observers and I firmly believe that there
is absolutely no possibility of Jim Monaghan, Martin McCauley and
Niall Connolly getting a fair trial," said Crowe. "And as time
goes on it is increasingly difficult for those attending the
trial as observers, due to constant pressure and threats, both
around the court and getting in and out of the country.
"We will be seeking an urgent meeting with Brian Cowen on our
return to voice our deep concerns about this trial and to call on
the government to urgently act for the rights for these three
Irishmen and to secure their immediate release. This is a simply
matter of justice which the government must vigorously pursue
with the Colombia authorities."