The Blanket

Colombian 3 - What Chance of Justice

Sean Smyth

The three Irish men arrested last August in Bogotá, after returning from the demilitarised zone, are due to go to trial on the 15th July. Despite what the Colombian and International media claim, there is no evidence to convict Niall Connolly, James Monaghan and Martin McCauly of the principal charge of training the FARC in the use of explosives. Colombian state prosecutors will present one piece of technical evidence and five witnesses.

The technical evidence relies on test carried out by the American embassy in Bogotá, which apparently shows that traces of explosives and drugs were found on the men's clothes.

The defendants' lawyers argue that there is no precedent in Colombian legal history of a foreign power usurping the jurisdiction of the Colombian authorities in presenting such evidence, and point out that while professional forensic laboratories would carry out such tests at least six times to draw their conclusions from the results, the test at the American Embassy were done only once. And therefore the allegations are not sufficiently proved.

These claims are backed up by more sophisticated tests carried out by the Colombian Internal Security Police (DAS) and the Institute of Legal Medicine, all of which found nn traces of either explosives or drugs on the clothing of the three.
The five witnesses presented by the state are similarly weak.

Three of them actually back up the testimony of the defendants.Of the two remaining witnesses, one, the Inspector of Police in San Vincente de Caguan (principal town in the demilitarised zone) never actually saw any of the accused, but learned of their presence through, of all things, the television.

The final witnesses, a nineteen year old deserter from the (FARC), who claims to have been the driver of Joaquin Gomez, one of the FARC's chief negotiators, presents confused and contradictory testimony.

The dates of the three's visits to Colombia change with each statement given to the police. Similarly his recollections of the explosives courses that the three are alleged to have taught, are contradictory. In some statements the witness claims to have been a student on the courses, on others he says that he did not actually attend himself, but merely heard about them.

This remarkably flimsy evidence should in no way be sufficient to convict the three of the charges they face. However their case could possibly be lost because of the overt politicisation of the case. And the pressure exerted by the Colombian and the USA Governments on the judicial system to abandon their independence is gravely endangering the possibility of a fair trial, and has already made a mockery of the three's right to the presumption of innocence.

The USA's House of Representative's foreign affairs committee public investigation into the alleged links between the FARC and the IRA, last April is a case in point.

Justified as a necessary tool in the USA's (war against terror) it was a case of unwarranted meddling in the affairs of another country. Neither the FARC or the IRA have ever carried out a single attack or action against the USA. And the hearing was a dangerous pseudo judicial process, the aim of which appeared to be to condemn the three in Colombia before their trail had taken place.

Congress heard wild allegations about the three from star witness General Fernando Tapias, head of the Colombian armed forces. No representatives of FARC or the IRA or Sinn Fein attended and defence lawyers in Colombia were prevented from clarifying or refuting these allegations, by the sub judice nature of the case, which prohibits public speculation regarding a case before it has came to trial.

The highly politicised process of condemnation at the US Congress was completely indifferent both to the sub judice status that this case should have enjoyed and to the impediment of the Colombian judiciary. Further causes of concern involve the condition of the three's detention and access to their legal representatives.

The three are still being held in La Picota Prison, even through the Colombian Government has told their Irish counterparts that they have been moved to a safer surroundings and their defence lawyers visiting them have been forced to undergo degrading and inhuman treatment in order to meet their clients. They have been forced to submit to strip searches and have to enter the cells barefoot and are not allowed to take in pens or pencils into their interviews.

The lawyers working on behalf of the three have called on people to demand that:

(1) The Colombian government and the USA congress end the aforementioned campaign to politicise the case of the three Irish citizens detained in Colombia.
(2) That the detained men are allowed to exercise their right to a defence, and that their lawyers are allowed the necessary dignified conditions to enter La Picota Prison, where the defendants are being held.

Please address your communications to:

Anne Paterson, US Ambassador to Colombia. Fax (0057) 1 315 2197.
Andres Pastrana, President of Colombia. (apastra@presidencia,
Fax (0057) 1 334 1323.
Guillermo Fernandez de Soto, minister of Foreign Relations. Fax (0057) 1 556 6444.





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The man of knowledge must be able not only to love his enemies but also to hate his friends.
- Friedrich Nietzsche

Index: Current Articles

11 July 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


In Memory of a Storm Trooper

Billy Mitchell


States of Failure

Ciarán Irvine


Colombian 3 - What Chance of Justice
Sean Smyth

So Many Monuments...

Brian Mór

Lord Alex on the job
Brian Mór


7 July 2002


It Was Our First World War Too, You know

Anthony McIntyre


No To Isolation

Trade And Employees' Unions and TMMOB


The Orange Relic
Sean O Lubaigh

Remember the Dishonour

Davy Carlin

Danny Myers




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