Belfast Telegraph

Fears over severity of men's sentence

By Conor Sweeney in Brussels and Gene McKenna
17 December 2004

The Republic's government has concerns about the severity of the sentence imposed on the Colombia Three, foreign affairs Minister Dermot Ahern has said.

The minister said they were examining the verdict and would be looking at the issue on humanitarian grounds and would make representations to the Colombian government.

Expressing concern for the men's families, Mr Ahern said they would have to see what was possible by way of getting some relief for the men through contacts with the Colombian government.

Mr Ahern said: "We are surprised, first of all, because a lower court completely exonerated these men and now they have got a very severe sentence.

"The sentence is pretty tough and we will have to look at the 120-page judgment to see if there is any grain of help or promise for them"

He pointed out that it had always been made clear to them in contacts with the Colombian Government that the judiciary was totally separate.

His information, he said, was that there was another legal option, an appeal to the Supreme Court. But that could take "some considerable time". But if the Government intervened with the Colombian Government it would have to be "at the ultimate end" of the legal formalities.

There was supportive reaction from the chairman of the US House of Representatives' international relations committee to the court's decision.

"There never was a benign explanation of why two IRA explosive experts using false passports were wandering around in the Colombian jungle with known members of the narco-terrorist group Farc," said Republican chairman Henry Hyde.

"Today's decision provides the answer and appropriate punishment for training terrorists who target innocents and who traffic in deadly drugs to Americans and Europeans alike."

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