U.S. LAWYERS BLAST COLOMBIAN DETENTIONS
Reports by U.S. lawyers criticising the trial and detention of the
three Irishmen in Colombia have been submitted to the Irish government
and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Sergio
Vieira de Mello.
One New York-based human rights lawyer, Ms Natalie Kabasakalian, said
in her observer's report: "Not only has the prosecution failed to
its burden of proof in establishing the charges against the defendants,
but the untruth of every material fact and conclusion attested to by
prosecution witnesses has been definitively established by credible
She added: "Now that the defence case has largely been heard, it
more than apparent that there is no credible evidence against the three
"Forensics testimony offered by an expert of international standing
impugns the reliability and credibility of the sole piece of evidence
purporting to link the defendants with illicit explosives."
She pointed out that the men's right of religious freedom had been
violated: "The prosecutor appears to believe that the defendants'
religious identity as Catholics incriminates them."
In view of "the utter absence of incriminating evidence", she
that: "The continued deprivation of the defendants' liberty constitutes
a serious violation of their fundamental rights."
Another observer, Mr Stephen McCabe, president of the Brehon Law
Society of Nassau county, New York, a human rights group with an
interest in North of Ireland issues, said: "It is quite clear to
observer that the three accused were not in Colombia during the times
they were alleged to have been. If not present, they could not possibly
have conducted the acts they are accused of. The evidence is
persuasive, clear and convincing."
Since the three men were arrested, they have been held in six different
jails and detention centres. They are now in custody in one of the most
dangerous prisons in Colombia, El Modelo in Bogota.
Their trial, which began on October 4, 2002, has been adjourned six
times. It is scheduled to resume this Saturday, June 14.
"A team of international observers made up of human rights lawyers,
politicians and human rights defenders from Europe, the United States
and Australia have travelled to each stage of the trial," said
Caitriona Ruane, a spokesperson for the Bring Them Home campaign.
At the last hearing in April, the defence presented three videos, made
on February 7, February 21 and February 22, 2001, taken in Dublin and
Belfast, featuring Jim Monaghan in each one.
"These videos categorically show that the state witness Edwin Geovanny
Rodriguez perjured himself on the stand," Ruane said.
"Mr Rodriguez said that he saw the three men training the Farc from
February 5 to February 25 2001. Serious questions need to be asked here
of the Colombian state -- is the Colombian Prosecution `schooling'
witnesses to give false alibi evidence who are in military custody in
return for reduction of sentence or freedom from prosecution?
"All the evidence indicates that they are. Meanwhile, three Irishmen
remain in one of the most dangerous jails in Latin America."