Irish Echo Online - News

Colombia 3 still awaiting verdict

By Stephen McKinley

The three Irish men tried on charges of helping left-wing guerillas acquire terrorist know-how in Colombia will spend their third Christmas in a Bogotá prison this year.

Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and Jim Monaghan were arrested as they tried to leave Colombia in August 2001.

They are now awaiting the decision of Judge Jairo Accosta as to their fate, after the conclusion of their trail, which was attacked in a report compiled by international observers and lawyers from Ireland, the U.S. and Australia as being politicized, prejudiced and unfair.

No evidence was presented, the report says, linking the three to the charges of training guerillas.

Judge Acosta, who under Colombian law would normally be required to give a verdict within a few days of the trial's end, asked for an extension for his deliberations, noting the exceptional sensitivities and complex issues raised by the case. He is expected to rule in the new year.

The observers' report, entitled "Colombia 3: Judge for Yourself," includes detailed analysis of the legal case and the trial process by a number of lawyers who attended the hearings including Irish barrister Ronan Munro and solicitor Pat Daly.

It also includes contributions by U.S. human rights advocate Natalie Kabaskalian and Australian lawyer Shaun Kerrigan, both of whom criticize what they claim were prejudicial statements by senior Colombian political and military figures during the trial.

There is further information at www.bringthemhome.ie

This story appeared in the issue of December 24-31, 2003

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