By DAN MOLINSKI, Associated Press Writer

BOGOTA, Colombia - Three men linked to the Irish Republican Army
were freed from prison Tuesday after spending 34 months behind bars
on suspicion they trained Colombian rebels.

After a lengthy trial, Niall Connolly, James Monaghan and Martin
McCauley were found innocent in April of training members of the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, to build bombs but
were found guilty of traveling on false passports.

The three sped out of La Modelo Prison in Bogota in cars after paying
a fine. Journalists at the gate saw them sweep past, and prison
spokeswoman Ana Maria Escobar confirmed they had been freed.

Judge Jaime Acosta had imposed prison sentences and fines of $6,500
each after finding them guilty of using fake passports to reach
Colombia and a safe haven granted to the rebels during peace talks
that collapsed in February 2002.

The trio were arrested in August 2001 in Bogota's airport after
returning from the rebel stronghold. Acosta determined they had
already served sufficient time behind bars during the trial and could
leave jail upon payment of fines.

After the government appealed the innocent verdicts on the terrorism
charges, however, the three said they would rather remain in jail for
their own safety, fearing they might be targeted by right-wing death
squads for their alleged ties to the FARC.

The men would normally be obligated to remain in Colombia during the
appeal process. But the government said it would let the three return
to Ireland, if Irish authorities guarantee the men would be returned
to Colombia if ultimately found guilty.

The men's destination was not immediately known.

All three have links to the IRA.

Monaghan was convicted in 1971 of possessing explosives and later
served on the executive board of Sinn Fein, the IRA-linked political
party. McCauley was shot during a police ambush at an IRA weapons
dump in 1982 and later was convicted of weapons possession. Connolly
was the Cuban-based Latin American representative of Sinn Fein.

Their arrests sent shock waves 8,000 miles away in Northern Ireland,
where a decade-old peace process was built partly on hopes that the
outlawed IRA would renounce violence.

The trio said they had come to Colombia to study the peace process
between the FARC and the government, and that they had used false
passports because they would have had difficulty traveling under
their real names because of their IRA links.

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