James Monaghan, Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly were all interviewed separately at Dublin Garda stations Thursday. Monaghan and McCauley were allowed to leave after six hours while Connolly, who was arrested on suspicion of traveling on a forged Irish passport, was detained for twelve hours.
Neither Monaghan nor McCauley was formally arrested as on their original arrest in Colombia both were traveling on forged British passports and had not committed an offence under Irish law.
All three men were accompanied by their lawyers and are not thought to have discussed any matters relating to their time spent in Colombia where they are facing 17-and-a-half-year sentences for training FARC rebels.
The men left directly after their interviews and did not speak to members of the press.
Minister for Justice Michael McDowell has asked the Garda chief commissioner Noel Conroy for answers as to why the three men were allowed to arrive at Garda stations for seemingly pre-arranged interviews.
The PDs accused Sinn Fein of organizing the interviews in order to maximize publicity, a claim denied by the party.
Tanaiste and PD leader Mary Harney had called on the three men to turn themselves into the authorities for questioning and had called on members of the public to help the gardai in locating them.
The three had been staying in hidden locations after revealing their presence in the country almost three weeks ago. Monaghan gave a television interview to RTE news in which he said they were not “on the run” and were not hiding from gardai.
It is not thought that the three men will be extradited to Colombia, or be made to serve sentences in Ireland. No extradition treaty exists between the two countries and some legal sources have said it would be unconstitutional to have the men sent back.
Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern said Friday that the men’s fate lay in the hands of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
“We have to stand back and allow the independent process to take its course,” he said. “These are not matters within the political realm.”
The DUP reacted angrily to the men’s release. Ian Paisley Jr. called on the Irish government to send the men back to Colombia.
“The Republic has a choice. Does it want to be regarded as a place for terrorist fugitives to hide, or does it want to stand shoulder to shoulder with those democratic countries who oppose terrorism,” said Paisley. “The choice is the most important that the Republic will make and it will be judged by its actions.”
Bring Them Home campaigner Caitriona Ruane, who has fought for the men’s return to Ireland since their arrests in 2001, said the three were not on the run.
“The men made a decision to return home to protect themselves and rejoin their families,” she said. “They have made themselves available to talk to the garda