Legal quandary over Colombia Three

20 December 2004
By Seán McCárthaigh

TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern has admitted the Government would have to consider the legal aspects of any possible calls for the extradition of three Irish men on the run from Colombia, if they reappeared in Ireland.
Mr Ahern said the Attorney General Rory Brady had sought a translation of the recent ruling by a Colombian appeal court which imposed 17-year jail sentences on James Monaghan, Niall Connolly and Martin McCauley.

It overturned the three men’s earlier acquittal on charges of training Marxist FARC rebel guerillas in Colombia in bomb-making.

“We don’t have presently an extradition agreement with Colombia. We will have to look at the legal aspects that arise,” said Mr Ahern.

The Taoiseach confirmed the Government was keeping in contact with authorities in Colombia about the disappearance of the men, who vanished after being released from custody following their acquittal last April, despite being told to report to local police each week.

“Now there is the complication because they are not in the country and we have to look at the legal arguments around that,” Mr Ahern said.

Security forces in most of Latin America have been put on increased alert for the three Irish fugitives and Interpol, the French-based international police agency, is expected to issue international arrest warrants for the three men later today.

“They committed crimes in Colombia and they have to answer to the Colombian justice system,” said the country’s attorney general, Luis Camilo Osorio.

Asked about the lengthy jail sentences imposed on the three Irishmen, the Taoiseach said: “I think people felt the judge on the first hearing was a reasonably fair person.

“Then you go on an appeal and you end up getting 17 years so, on the face of it, that looks very difficult.”

Speculation on the Irish men’s whereabouts has centred on Cuba, Brazil and Venezuela.

International police sources have suggested a known IRA fugitive, Paul Damery, believed to be living in Venezuela, helped the three men flee Colombia.

Damery is wanted for questioning about the murder of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe in 1996.

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