acquittal in Bogotá of three Irishmen falsely
accused of terrorism is an embarrassing setback for
the Colombian government. It is also compelling evidence
of the deep duplicity of the British government and
its Unionist allies in Ireland. Similarly, it underlines
the dishonesty of much of the international news media,
whose coverage overwhelmingly presumed the three men's
guilt. The acquittal is an important win for determined
human rights defenders in Colombia and the rest of
Latin America. Here Caitriona Ruane, coordinator of
the campaign to release the three, talks about the
case and continuing dangers preventing the men returning
What is the current legal status of the three following
three men have been found innocent on the charge of
training the FARC. It is a very significant legal
judgement. Judge Jairo Acosta in his judgement ordered
that the witnesses brought forward by the Attorney
General's Office be investigated for perjury. One
of these witnesses was living voluntarily in a military
barracks. Another was a prisoner in jail. It begs
the question - were they coached by military intelligence?
Also how many other people are in jail on the testimony
of these witnesses and other such witnesses? The men
have been found guilty of false passports and under
Colombian Law are entitled to "Conditional Liberty".
The defence has a request in to Judge Acosta requesting
that he authorise that they leave the country given
that their lives are in danger here. I have given
testimony to Judge Acosta about the threats and incidents
that happened to the men, the Bring Them Home Campaign
and to observers of the trial. The Irish Government
have also put in writing to the Colombian Authorities
their concern about the security of the men and the
Bring Them Home Campaign representatives.
Are they safe? If not, what needs to be done?
they are not safe, they need to be permitted to leave
the jail and go straight home. The Colombian Government
have refused a request for adequate security for the
three men and the two representatives of the Bring
Them Home Campaign. We are very concerned for their
safety in the jail, they are currently being held
in La Modelo, one of the most dangerous jails in the
world. They are surrounded by right wing paramilitaries.
Could you give some anecdotal account of threats to
or risks for the 3 and for you? Are the 3's Colombian
lawyers more at risk as a result of the case?
I have given testimony to the Judge about the threats
to the men, the Bring Them Home campaign and the observers
who have monitored the case here in Colombia. The
Irish Government has made representation to the Colombian
authorities about the security of the three men and
the two of us. I am not into glamorising threats so
I would prefer not to use anecdotes. The lawyers are
the same. I have made representation to the Colombian
Government and to international agencies about the
lawyers, requesting guarantees for them.
What obstacles remain to the men returning home apart
from the remaining legal procedures?
The Minister of Defence, the police and the Attorney
General's office have begun a campaign to prevent
them leaving the country. The Vice President of the
country Francisco Santos has accepted the judgement.
There is a battle going on here between the Executive
and the Military, the Colombian Government needs to
reign in their security services and their Minister
Do you think the case is still being unduly exploited
politically by, respectively the British government,
the Colombian government and politicians in Ireland?
I think the case is being exploited by elements of
the Colombian Government, particularly the military,
the police and the Attorney General's office. I think
there are layers of the government that realise what
is happening here is not good for Colombia's image.
Three innocent men are in jail when they should be
free because the Colombian Government cannot guarantee
are all sorts of bogus intelligence reports surfacing
trying to question the decision of the Judge. The
reality is that the three men have been found innocent
- not a little bit innocent but innocent. People should
stop using this case and let these men get on with
their lives. Mr Paisley Jnr. (of the Democratic Unionist
Party in the north of Ireland) is going on about jungle
justice. Mr. Paisley has shown over the years that
he does not know too much about justice. The reality
is that one of the ways that the Unionists who do
not want to powershare were attacking the peace process
in Ireland was to use Colombia, now they cannot use
it. It is time they sat down with Sinn Féin
and built an Ireland of equals. The Irish Government
is working closely with us to get these men home -
there were times I would have preferred to see them
taking a stronger line. We need them to make urgent
representation at the highest level and call on the
Colombian Authorities to permit the men to leave the
Is the attitude of the US government relevant at the
is difficult to know the attitude of the US Government.
From what I have seen they have made no statement
in relation to the judgement that acquitted the three.
What significance do the Colombian lawyers who defended
the three give to the judgement?
media here are saying that it is the most important
legal judgement in 100 years in Colombia. Lawyers
and human rights groups are saying the same and are
inspired by the campaign, and the legal battle that
has taken place over the past two years and nine months.
They note how the defence brought witnesses over,
and the forensic expert, they also note how the defence
and campaign brought over international observers.
Has the case helped strengthen the position of human
rights in general and of human rights defenders in
particular in the country?
definitely - it was a case that nobody thought the
defence could win, not because there was any evidence
but because of the political nature of it and the
political interests involved. People in Colombia have
seen a new way of fighting a case. It has also been
an interesting process in terms of solidarity and
team work between the two legal teams in Ireland and
Colombia. We pooled our resources and each learned
from each other. It is also significant that the Judge
made such a strong judgement and I think that he has
shown tremendous leadership in a country and legal
system that badly needs it.
Are the three able to comment on the plight of other
prisoners they met in El Modelo?
was in La Modelo today and it would break your heart
to see thousands of women and children going in to
visit their partners, sons and fathers. They had travelled
from all over Colombia and most of them are peasants
and poor people. It is not the rich that are going
to jail. La Modelo Jail is a hellhole. The Colombian
Authorities need to begin a peace process and seriously
look at the issue of prisoners.
Will there be a continuing role for the solidarity
campaign with the three once they return?
are taking it one step at a time, we want to get them
home first and then we will take stock and decide
what the Bring Them Home Campaign will do.
Ruane gave this interview via e-mail with Toni Solo.
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