Verdict in Colombia
Three Trial Due in February
By Irish America Staff
December / January 2003
A verdict in the case of three Irishmen accused of training FARC guerrillas in Colombia is expected to be handed down in February, but campaigners for the three insist that they will never get a fair trial in the war-tom country.
Martin McCauley, James Monaghan and Niall Connolly have so far failed to attend the hearings, which are continuing in Bogotá.
The men have refused to leave their cells claiming they are afraid for their safety. The judge has ordered an investigation into claims that on one occasion they were beaten up by prison staff after they refused to leave the jail.
Defense lawyers for the three are to call a number of key witnesses to hearings in December and January. They include former Sinn Féin press officer and writer Danny Morrison and a British forensics expert, Keith Borer.
Morrison is expected to explain why ex-prisoners from Northern Ireland regularly travel on false documentation.
Borer will claim that there is no forensic evidence linking the men to explosives. He has examined tests carded out by the U.S. embassy in Colombia as well as tests carded out by the local authorities. According to representatives of the men, the first test by the Americans found traces of drugs and explosives but was dismissed because the civil authorities were unaware that it was being carded out. The second test found traces of explosives only. The tests carded out by the Colombian authorities found no traces of either.
Since their arrest the three have been moved seven times to five places of detention and have been kept under armed protection because of threats from right-wing para-militaries in the prison system.
Their families have expressed concern that the men’s lives are at increasing risk because of the ongoing military conflict in Colombia.
The three men have been charged with assisting illegal activities and using false documents, including passports, to collaborate with the FARC. If found guilty, they could be sentenced to 20 years in prison. ♦