An Phoblacht/Republican News , 31. July 2003
Courtroom statements of the Colombia 3
The three Irishmen on trial in Colombia made surprise appearance in
court for the first time in their trial on Wednesday as the lengthy
proceedings draw to a close.
They vehemently protested their innocence of training FARC guerillas,
reasserting their position that they had been in Colombia, like many
other international visitors, to observe the peace process. The men
singled out the British and US embassies in Bogota for special
criticism, accusing them of spreading misinformation about them from
Following the summing up by the prosecution on Monday, each of the men
made statements to the court on Wednesday. The defence begins its
summation today [Thursday].
The following are the full texts of their declarations of innocence
Declaration of Martin McCauley
Following the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and the
International Commission headed by Chris Patten, a former British
government minister and former British Governor of Hong Kong, was
established to make recommendations for the creation of a new police
service that would be acceptable to all sections of the community. I
gave evidence to this Commission based on my own experiences at the
hands of the RUC. As a result of my court case and the publicity it
received I was subjected to a campaign of vicious harassment by the RUC
and the British military. A bomb was placed at my home. At that time
I was legally represented by Rosemary Nelson, a human rights lawyer.
Rosemary was threatened by the RUC. In 1999 the same death squads that
had killed Pat Finucane, killed Rosemary Nelson.
I was in genuine fear for the safety of myself and my family. I moved
from the North of Ireland, which is under British occupation and went
to live in the south.
Prior to moving south, I had been involved with former political
prisoners in Lurgan, Co. Armagh. When I had settled into my new home I
became reinvolved with work for former prisoners. I re-established
contact with Jim Monaghan who I had met previously. Through this work
I became involved in discussions and debates on conflict and conflict
I met Niall Connolly through Jim, following a discussion on Latin
America. When the idea of the trip to Colombia arose I agreed to
travel with Jim and Niall. I had never been to Latin America, and I was
interested in visiting this continent and seeing their peace process.
I have lived openly, north and south for 20 years. I have been in
regular employment. Part of my employment involved me adapting motor
vehicles for use by people with disabilities. I have travelled openly
all over Ireland. I have not been charged with any of the offences
alleged by the RUC or the British Embassy. I am not a member of the
IRA. I am not guilty of the charges laid out against me in this court.
Like my two friends I was using another name. Each of us had experience
of threats, harassment and violence in shared and different situations.
There is nothing more than a desire to travel unhindered in the fact
that I was travelling on another name. I have explained how my life
and those of my family have been threatened. I have explained how two
human rights lawyers who have worked on my behalf [Pat Finucane and
Rosemary Nelson] were murdered by pro-British death squads.
I am a supporter of Irish republicanism. I have worked within my
community to help give a political voice to their views. I am not a
member of Sinn Fein. I have worked for Sinn Fein candidates in
elections. I believe in the right of the Irish people to control their
destiny free from foreign occupation and interference.
The peace process in Ireland continues to survive but it has been
undermined and attacked by elements within the British political and
military establishment and from pro-British forces in Ireland. Our
arrest in Colombia has been used by these and other elements to further
undermine the peace process. Elements in the Colombian military and the
political establishment have fed lies and misinformation to the media
to serve their own interests. The Embassy of the United States cannot
escape criticism for its role in this affair. Their so-called forensic
evidence against us is fraudulent and misleading.
I wish to directly refute the evidence given by Captain Pulido. At no
stage did I speak with this man. At the airport I was not asked for my
passport nor was I asked my name at the time of my arrest. Captain
Pulido's testimony is wrong.
In conclusion, I wish to thank my family and friends, the legal and
political observers who have travelled great distances to help us, and
everyone involved in the Bring Them Home campaign.
Declaration of Jim Monaghan
"Former political prisoners have always played a central role in Irish
Republican politics. Today many of the political leaders within Sinn
Fein are former political prisoners. The role of prisoners and former
prisoners was recognised as crucial to the development of the peace
process within the community at local level.
An organisation called Coiste na n-Iarchimi was established. Its
primary aim was to help former prisoners reintegrate into society and
to enable them to use their abilities to shape the new society that
will emerge from the Irish Peace Process.
In 1999/2000 I was granted a position within Coiste. It was a full-time
paid position. I was the director of a new sub-unit in Dublin called
Tar Isteach. My job, indeed the project, was funded by the Irish
government as part of the peace process. Similar projects were and are
funded by the British government in the north of Ireland.
Many of the discussions that we had during the course of our work in
Coiste identified the need for social justice and how that could be
achieved. We recognised the need to study other situations and see how
conflict resolution processes were developing. To do that we knew that
it was necessary to meet face to face with others in different
countries who were engaged in broadly similar processes.
Witnesses have already explained in detail the problems facing former
prisoners including travel restrictions. With these problems come
dangers. Because of these and previous experiences in travel shared by
each of us we felt it wiser and safer to travel by legitimate means but
using a different identity.
I came to know Martin McCauley through the ex-prisoner community, our
friendship developed when Martin and his family were forced to move
near Dublin following threats to their lives. I have known Niall
Connolly for a number of years. He is a native of Dublin and returns
there on his regular trips home from Latin America. I knew Niall worked
on humanitarian projects in that region. The three of us share the
same broad political interests. Niall and I travelled to Nicaragua
together a few years ago.
In the summer of 2001 the three of us travelled to Colombia principally
to see the peace process but also to enjoy a holiday. For reasons
already stated the three of us travelled with different names. We
travelled openly and the way all other travellers would. We visited
the peace zone.
We spent several weeks in the zone. We talked to a great many people.
We shared experiences about the peace processes in Ireland and
We discussed the involvement of outsiders in such processes. From an
Irish perspective the advice and experiences of people involved in
South Africa, Palestine, East Timor and other regions in Latin America
were very important.
We discussed the process of becoming involved in a political system
seen as hostile and the gains and the problems that resulted from such
a course of action. We talked at length about the role of former
prisoners in political developments in Ireland and the Irish peace
We met with members of the FARC. We learnt from them about the great
number of visitors and political representatives who had visited the
zone. This included members of the Colombian government and many
people from outside Colombia.
Since we were arrested at El Dorado airport there has been a constant
flow of misinformation and false allegations against us. The Embassies
of the United States and Britain have both intervened to distort the
truth. We were then driven to a military barracks, northamerican
officials were present. After this we were brought to the Prosecutor's
office. Everything was happening very fast, there were a lot of
soldiers about. We denied meeting the FARC initially because we thought
it would make matters worse for us.
The US forensics have been exposed as bogus. The stories of satellite
pictures, video tapes and so on have been proven to be false. The
British Embassy alleged that I am a member of the IRA. It is illegal
in Ireland, North and South, and in England to belong to the IRA. I
have lived openly, and travelled to all parts of Ireland over the past
17 years. I have not been arrested or charged in relation to any of
these allegations. I reject them. I am not a member of the IRA.
False evidence has been presented to this court. This is clear in the
case of the US Embassy. The British Embassy also presented as factual
evidence what amounts to no more than wild claims. Witnesses produced
by the Colombian military have been proved to have given false
The charge of training the FARC is a false charge, based on false
evidence. The training never happened, and I and my friends are
therefore not guilty.
I would like to conclude by thanking my family and friends who have
supported me in every way since my arrest. The work carried out on our
behalf by everyone involved in the "Bring Them Home" Campaign has given
Thank you all.
Declaration of Niall Connolly
I have been interested in Latin America and the politics of the region
since the 1980s.
While living in Cuba I was able to gain employment and put my knowledge
of Spanish and English to good use. I worked as a translator. On
occasion, as the court has heard in evidence, I was employed as a guide
for visiting politicians and media.
I became active in political mobilisation against the British political
and military occupation of part of Ireland in the 1980s. In particular,
I was influenced by the hunger strike in 1981 when ten Irish prisoners
died in a British prison. I participated in campaigns and protests
during this period. I support Sinn Fein and wherever I was, at home or
abroad, I made myself available to promote the aims of Sinn Fein. I am
a supporter of the Irish peace process and the efforts of leaders like
Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness who are striving to bring about a
lasting peace with social justice.
I visited Ireland regularly. During one of my visits home I got to know
Jim Monaghan. Jim was aware of my work in Latin America and was eager
to hear my experiences.
While in Dublin in early 2001 I met with Jim and a number of other
people including Martin McCauley, who had been involved in discussions
about conflict situations and conflict resolution processes around the
As a result of this meeting I agreed to undertake a trip to Colombia
with Jim and Martin. I had travelled with Jim previously and my
knowledge of Spanish was a primary reason for asking me to accompany
I have experienced first hand the reconciliation process in Nicaragua
and El Salvador. I have followed the peace process in Guatemala. I have
an interest in the Colombian peace process along with other issues that
effect politics in Latin America. When we visited Colombia, the
country was trying, through dialogue between the government and the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia to define positions that would
be used as the foundation for a peace process. The government had given
political status to the FARC. Observers from around the world came to
learn and to offer solidarity in the search for peace with social
justice. I was motivated by my desire to see firsthand another process
of conflict resolution in motion. I believed that an historic
opportunity had been created between the government and the insurgents
in one of the oldest conflicts in Latin America. I hope that a new
process of reconciliation with social justice will develop in the
future in Colombia.
When we were arrested by the Colombian military there were no warrants
for our detention.
It became clear that false and irresponsible information was being
leaked by the British Embassy. I was described as a member of the IRA.
I have never been arrested or questioned about such an allegation. It
is false. I am not a member of the IRA.
The intervention of officials from the US Embassy in the taking of the
forensic samples and the subsequent media leaks from both the US and
British embassies was an attempt to damage and undermine the Colombian
peace process. The so-called forensic evidence has been proven to be
Our arrests and the mass of information and false stories that have
followed have also been used to damage and undermine the Irish peace
process. The Irish peace process is at an advanced stage. Yet more work
needs to be done. My friends have spoken about the process of political
recognition and status, the process of negotiations between the
governments of Ireland, Britain and America and Irish republicans.
Since our arrest the Fiscal [prosecutor], instead of fulfilling his
duty and responsibilities to guarantee that justice is done, has
arrogantly thrown the presumption of innocence into the dustbin, along
with the independence of his institution.
The Fiscal has failed to guarantee that procedures are respected and
that the evidence is analysed in a just and impartial way. Confidential
details about our case have been given to the media to upset and damage
our opportunity to get a fair trial. Fabricated forensics was allowed,
while DAS tests that showed that there were no traces of explosives or
drugs were kept out.
We have been placed in jails in Colombia under the recommendation of
the Fiscal while our lives have been in danger, and in the opinion of
one judge, who ordered our transfer, we have been subject to degrading
and inhumane treatment. Obstacles have been placed in our way and that
of our lawyers when we were trying to prepare our defence. Our lawyers'
lives are in danger because of the statements made in the media, many
of them by prominent politicians.
Our lawyers from Colombia and Ireland will show that without a shadow
of a doubt that we are not guilty as charged. They will also show that
this case should never have been brought to this court. I am not guilty
of the charges laid against me. I come here today to remind the Fiscal
of my rights, my international rights of the Presumption of Innocence.
The determination of our families and the Bring Them Home Campaign led
by Caitriona Ruane, the presence of international observers from
Australia, the United States, Ireland and the presence of the Irish
government observers at this trial, the messages from all around the
world of support and the active support of thousands of people in
Ireland has given us much moral support and I thank you from the bottom
of my heart.