Irish Republican News, August 5, 2005
'Colombia Three' return to Ireland
Three Irishmen who were victims of a miscarriage of justice in Colombia have
returned to Ireland, according to reports.
Niall Connolly, James Monaghan and Martin McCauley have been missing since
last December following their acquittal in Colombia on charges of training
left-wing rebels in the country's civil war.
However, the acquittal was inexplicably reversed by a higgher court in a
politically charged decision widely denounced by human rights observers.
In fear of their lives of retaliation by right-wing Colombian
paramilitaries and facing up to 20 years behind bars, the men left the
Looking tanned and fit today, if tired, Mr Monaghan said his return was
not related to any deal over last week's historic statement by the
Provisional IRA, calling an end to its armed struggle.
Speaking to Irish television, Mr Monaghan said: "There hasn't been any
deal of any sort. We returned as soon was we were able to return. I'm back
in ireland only a few days."
The former political prisoner said he did not want to endanger anyone by
revealing the manner of his return, but said "a lot of people in a lot of
courties had to help us".
Mr Monaghan pointed out the Irish government had asked that the three be
allowed to return pending an appeal against the conviction.
He again rejected accusations that the men had visited Colombia to become
involved in the civil war, and blasted discredited forensic evidence
presented by the prosecution at the original trial. He said that he had a
continuing interest in the peace process as a member of the ex-prisoner's
group, Coiste na n-Iarchimi.
Mr Monaghan did not consider himself to be "on the run" from the
authorities, and was available to speak to Irish Garda police.
"I wouldn't be giving this interview if I was on the run. I'm back and I
hope I wil be left in peace."
The issue of republicans still 'on the run' from prosecutions arising from
the conflict in the North, has been a key subject of negotiations in recent
years. Speculation has grown of an impending announcement terminating
outstanding prosecutions, which would allow dozens of exiled republicans to
The return has further fuelled unionist wrath following British moves this
week to reduce its military presence in the North.
Democratic Unionist deputy leader Peter Robinson tonight said the Irish
Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern had to hand them back to the Colombian
"These three men were intricately involved in the global terrorist
network," the East Belfast MP said.
"Mr Ahern must facilitate by whatever means necessary their swift
extradition, even if that means new legislation.
"If he does not, unionists in Northern Ireland will believe him to be
"These men are on-the-run terrorists, convicted of terrorism in a
"They are in the Republic of Ireland and given that there is supposed to
be a global battle against terrorism, Bertie Ahern knows what he has to do."
The Ulster Unionist Party, however, admitted that it was unlikely the
three would be returned to Colombia.
Party negotiator Michael McGimpsey said it was "surely no coincidence"
that the three returned following the IRA statement.
"The Irish government are unlikely to send them back as this move is
likely to be part of the latest concession choreography to republicans.
"The Colombia Three are probably the first 'on the run' to be given a
pardon. Once again, despicable political expediency is replacing common
sense and due process."
A spokesman for the Irish Department of Justice said it was aware of
reports the three men were back in Ireland, but was not yet prepared to
comment on the situation.
A spokesman said no extradition treaty existed between Ireland and
Colombia, but if they received a request for extradition it would be
Fine Gael opposition party leader Enda Kenny demanded an immediate
statement from the Irish Prime Minister and the Irish Minister for Justice
on the circumstances surrounding the men`s return.
Mr Kenny also called on the Irish government to clarify whether their
return was part of the negotiations between it and Sinn Fein in the run up
to the recent IRA statement on its future intentions.
An Irish Government spokesman said tonight: "This issue was not part of
the Government`s discussions with Sinn Fein and we had no prior knowledge
of their return to Ireland."