Category: Archive

Bogota trial is adjourned to late July

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and James Monaghan are accused of training FARC rebels, a Marxist revolutionary force that has carried out terrorist attacks in Colombia.
The three Irishmen were arrested in August 2001 as they prepared to leave Bogata, prompting Unionist allegations in Northern Ireland that they were IRA members and therefore the IRA had broken its ceasefire.
If convicted in Colombia, the three men could face up to 20 years in prison. All three have refused to attend their trial, saying that they do not recognize the Colombian judicial system and that a fair trial is not possible.
Before last week’s adjournment, the trial was last heard in April when the defense presented a range of alibi witnesses who variously testified to meeting one or other of the three accused in Cuba, Dublin or Belfast on dates when the prosecution alleges they were in Colombia.
Judge Jairo Acosta, who under the Colombian legal system sits in judgment alone, without reference to a jury, has ruled that any evidence that may be seen in Colombia may not be reported there.
International legal observers at the trial have said that the prosecution case is fatally flawed and that prejudicial statements made by government officials, including President Alvaro Uribe Velez.
Last week, two American legal observers, Brehon Law Society members Stephen McCabe and Natalie Kabasakalian, published their latest reports based on their observation of the trial session in April last.
“It is quite clear to this observer, that the three accused were not in Colombia during the times they were alleged to have been,” McCabe writes.
Kabasakalian’s report concurs, stating: “Not only has the prosecution failed to meet its burden of proof in establishing the charges against the defendants, but the untruth of every material fact and conclusion attested to by prosecution witnesses has been definitively established by credible defense evidence.”
Caitriona Ruane, spokesperson for the Bring Them Home campaign, an Irish group dedicated to the three men’s safe return to Ireland, attacked the latest developments in the case.
“If this case happened in any other country in the world these men would be home with their families and not in one of the most dangerous jails in the world,” she said.

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