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Where Terror Reigns

Fred A Wilcox • 10 August 2005

On August 11, 2001, three Irish citizens were arrested in Bogota, Colombia.

Niall Connolly, Jim Monaghan, and Martin McCauley were held for the next six months, without being charged with any offense, in one of Colombia's notoriously overcrowded, filthy, and extremely dangerous prisons. Well aware that government-supported death squads roam Colombia, torturing, disappearing, and murdering human rights workers, judges, lawyers, and ordinary peasants, the three men feared for the lives.

In January, 2002, the Colombia 3 were charged with using false documents, and with aiding and abetting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), a Marxist guerilla group that has been fighting since 1964 to overthrow the Colombian government. These charges were false and patently absurd. What might a group of South American guerrillas who'd been at war for decades possibly learn from the Irish Republican Army, or anyone else, about military tactics? And why would three Irishmen risk their lives to wander about Colombia, hoping to find some clever ways to aide a formidable fighting force like FARC?

According to the Colombian government, the defendants were wearing clothing contaminated by explosive materials at the time of their arrest. Testifying for the defense, forensic expert Dr. Keith Borer discredited all of the government's evidence connecting the three men to explosive materials. Prosecution witnesses claimed to have seen the men in Colombia between 1999 and 2001, but video footage demonstrated the defendants were elsewhere. Witnesses for the prosecution proved to be misinformed, uninformed, and unreliable.

While they were arrested illegally, and languished in prison for two years before their trial ended in August, 2003, the Colombia 3 were fortunate to secure the support of an international team of observers, including lawyers, politicians, and human rights activists from Ireland, the United States, and Australia. Without this support, the three men might well have shared the fate of untold numbers of innocent people who have died of neglect or been murdered in Colombian prisons.

In the United States, where defendants are assumed to be innocent until proven guilty, this case would have faltered on the basis of political interference, suppression of evidence, and witnesses who obviously lied under oath. Government prosecutors failed to gather exculpatory evidence. Defendants were prevented from adequate access to lawyers. Forensic evidence gathered by the United States Embassy did not stand up under expert scrutiny. Intelligence given by Colombian authorities was inaccurate or 20 years out of date.

On April 2004, a Colombian court cleared the three defendants of the charges against them, and the judge in this case even suggested that prosecution witnesses might have committed perjury. Nevertheless, state prosecutors mounted an appeal, and instead of being deported the men were ordered to remain in Columbia, even though they and their supporters had been repeatedly threatened with death.

In December 2004, a panel of three judges overruled the acquittal of the Colombia 3 and sentenced them to 17 years in prison.

Niall, Martin, and Jim managed to escape and they have now returned to Ireland. Their supporters and their families are delighted to see them again, while hard-line unionists in N. Ireland and right-wing politicians in the 26 Counties, and their counterparts in the United States, are demanding that the men be extradited to Columbia. One outraged member of the Democratic Unionists Party (DUP) has even declared that if Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, fails to hand these men over to Colombia, he will be "terrorist collaborator."

Those who believe that justice will be served by sending Niall Connolly, Jim Monaghan, and Martin McCauley back to certain death in Colombia apparently have not read, or have chosen not to believe, reports by human rights groups on widespread corruption and chronic human rights violations in Colombia. Returning anyone to a country that practices torture is a violation of international law. Sending the Colombia 3 to die in South America would be a deliberate act of terrorism. This is hardly the way to create a more peaceful and more just world. Supporting a government that terrorizes its own citizens is not the way to wage war on terrorism.



















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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

10 August 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Failed Entity
Anthony McIntyre

Towards Justice: Damien Walsh Lecture
Fr Sean Mc Manus

Where Terror Reigns
Fred A Wilcox

Lack of Trust — Or Courage?
Mick Hall

Process of Consulting Loses Sway
David Adams

Unionism Can't Run on Empey
Anthony McIntyre

Another Side to the Surrender
Brian Mór

Provisional Surrender A Sell-Out
Joe Dillon

The Greatest Betrayal of All
Proinsias O'Loinsaigh

Censorship at the Irish Echo
John McDonagh & Brian Mór

Take Ireland Out of the War: Irish Anti War Movement News
Michael Youlton

Venezuela: Factories Without Bosses
Tomas Gorman

1 August 2005

An Open Letter to Gerry Adams
Dolours Price

The Inevitable
Anthony McIntyre

PIRA Statement 'Neither Surprising nor Historic'
32 County Sovereignty Movement

'Provisional IRA Should Disband Completely'
Ruairí Ó Brádaigh

A Momentous, Historic, Courageous and Confident Statement
Jimmy Sands

When History Was Made
Brian Mór

Roundup on the IRA Statement
Liam O Ruairc

The Way of the Apache and Lakota
Eoghan O'Suilleabhain

Strange Bedfellows?
Eamonn McCann

Rewriting the Past to Suit the Present
Mick Hall

Shoot to Kill: Getting Away with State Murder
Eamonn McCann

Parents of the World Unite
Fred A Wilcox



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