three Irish men arrested last August in Bogotá,
after returning from the demilitarised zone, are due
to go to trial on the 15th July. Despite what the
Colombian and International media claim, there is
no evidence to convict Niall Connolly, James Monaghan
and Martin McCauly of the principal charge of training
the FARC in the use of explosives. Colombian state
prosecutors will present one piece of technical evidence
and five witnesses.
technical evidence relies on test carried out by the
American embassy in Bogotá, which apparently
shows that traces of explosives and drugs were found
on the men's clothes.
defendants' lawyers argue that there is no precedent
in Colombian legal history of a foreign power usurping
the jurisdiction of the Colombian authorities in presenting
such evidence, and point out that while professional
forensic laboratories would carry out such tests at
least six times to draw their conclusions from the
results, the test at the American Embassy were done
only once. And therefore the allegations are not sufficiently
claims are backed up by more sophisticated tests carried
out by the Colombian Internal Security Police (DAS)
and the Institute of Legal Medicine, all of which
found nn traces of either explosives or drugs on the
clothing of the three.
The five witnesses presented by the state are similarly
of them actually back up the testimony of the defendants.Of
the two remaining witnesses, one, the Inspector of
Police in San Vincente de Caguan (principal town in
the demilitarised zone) never actually saw any of
the accused, but learned of their presence through,
of all things, the television.
final witnesses, a nineteen year old deserter from
the (FARC), who claims to have been the driver of
Joaquin Gomez, one of the FARC's chief negotiators,
presents confused and contradictory testimony.
dates of the three's visits to Colombia change with
each statement given to the police. Similarly his
recollections of the explosives courses that the three
are alleged to have taught, are contradictory. In
some statements the witness claims to have been a
student on the courses, on others he says that he
did not actually attend himself, but merely heard
remarkably flimsy evidence should in no way be sufficient
to convict the three of the charges they face. However
their case could possibly be lost because of the overt
politicisation of the case. And the pressure exerted
by the Colombian and the USA Governments on the judicial
system to abandon their independence is gravely endangering
the possibility of a fair trial, and has already made
a mockery of the three's right to the presumption
USA's House of Representative's foreign affairs committee
public investigation into the alleged links between
the FARC and the IRA, last April is a case in point.
as a necessary tool in the USA's (war against terror)
it was a case of unwarranted meddling in the affairs
of another country. Neither the FARC or the IRA have
ever carried out a single attack or action against
the USA. And the hearing was a dangerous pseudo judicial
process, the aim of which appeared to be to condemn
the three in Colombia before their trail had taken
heard wild allegations about the three from star witness
General Fernando Tapias, head of the Colombian armed
forces. No representatives of FARC or the IRA or Sinn
Fein attended and defence lawyers in Colombia were
prevented from clarifying or refuting these allegations,
by the sub judice nature of the case, which prohibits
public speculation regarding a case before it has
came to trial.
highly politicised process of condemnation at the
US Congress was completely indifferent both to the
sub judice status that this case should have enjoyed
and to the impediment of the Colombian judiciary.
Further causes of concern involve the condition of
the three's detention and access to their legal representatives.
The three are still being held in La Picota Prison,
even through the Colombian Government has told their
Irish counterparts that they have been moved to a
safer surroundings and their defence lawyers visiting
them have been forced to undergo degrading and inhuman
treatment in order to meet their clients. They have
been forced to submit to strip searches and have to
enter the cells barefoot and are not allowed to take
in pens or pencils into their interviews.
lawyers working on behalf of the three have called
on people to demand that:
The Colombian government and the USA congress end
the aforementioned campaign to politicise the case
of the three Irish citizens detained in Colombia.
(2) That the detained men are allowed to exercise
their right to a defence, and that their lawyers
are allowed the necessary dignified conditions to
enter La Picota Prison, where the defendants are
address your communications to:
Paterson, US Ambassador to Colombia. Fax (0057) 1
Pastrana, President of Colombia. (apastra@presidencia,gov.co)
Fax (0057) 1 334 1323.
Fernandez de Soto, minister of Foreign Relations.
Fax (0057) 1 556 6444.
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