The judge in the case spent the day setting the parameters for the rest of the trial before adjourning it until Dec. 2.
As the hearing proceeded, a statement issued on behalf of Niall Connolly, James Monaghan and Martin McAuley asserted their collective innocence.
“We visited Colombia to get to know the people, the natural beauty and the peace process,” the three said in a statement distributed to reporters by their spokeswoman. “We firmly support the Irish peace process and we hope to see a reengagement by all sides in the peace process in Colombia.
“In view of the fact that many of the allegations against us so far are unsubstantiated allegations, speculation, and in many instances pure fantasy, we now want to hear and see the evidence against us and we want to exercise the right to challenge the reliability of this evidence through our lawyers.”
Further along in their statement, the three men blamed political pressure from the United States and the Colombian government for their continued incarceration.
Colombian Judge Jairo Acosta said during the proceedings on Wednesday, Oct. 16, that “this trial will not effected by outside political pressure.” He said he would allow former “guerillas,” possibly from the IRA or Sinn Fein, to be called as witnesses for the prosecution.
The defense said it would have witnesses testify to what was “psychologically behind” the reasons the three men entered the country in the summer of 2001.
Outside the courthouse entrance, two dozen protesters carried the same signs they carried the week before when the trio were scheduled to have their first session before the judge. On that day, the men refused to leave their cells, a protest that resulted in a continuance until last week’s session.
“IRA go home and kill your own people” and “Ireland: Keep your terrorists at home” were on the signs carried by people who said they had lost loved ones to terrorist activity.
One major plank that the legal team for the three men have played up since the trio was nabbed at Bogota Airport in August 2001 was the shakiness of the forensic evidence against them. According to the defense lawyers, Colombian officials contacted the U.S. Embassy for assistance in conducting tests for explosive residue after the three emerged from the FARC rebel held territory. The lawyers have said the tests conducted by the Colombian police were negative for explosive residues, but the U.S. test showed positive.
The defense attorneys have questioned the propriety of U.S. military or law enforcement agencies conducting such tests in a foreign country.
It has now been revealed that it was neither U.S. military personnel or the FBI who conducted the tests. According to a senior U.S. official, the tests were conducted by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
“These are the guys with the most cutting-edge equipment. They are recognized around the world because of the constant threat with explosives against U.S. diplomats abroad; these guys know their stuff,” the official said.
The official also said the test by the Colombian authorities was based on a “tape lift” off the men’s clothing versus the U.S. test that utilized highly sensitive machinery.
“It’s like comparing the Model-T’s ability to a Porsche Carrera 4,” the official added.