By Ray O’Hanlon
A war of words has erupted between Sinn FTin and the Colombian government over the upcoming trial of three Irishmen accused of aiding the FARC leftist guerrillas.
The Colombian prosecutor general has accused the IRA of training the FARC to use mortars that recently killed more than 100 people in an attack on a town.
Sinn FTin has responded by accusing the prosecutor, Camilo Osorio, of making statements that would render unfair the upcoming trial of the three Irishmen, Niall Connolly, James Monaghan and Martin McAuley, all of whom have links to the republican movement in Ireland.
Osorio told the BBC in an interview that there was “considerable evidence” linking the three Irishmen — who have been in custody for a year — with the FARC.
Osorio said that mortar tubes, similar to a type once used by the IRA in the North, were used in the recent attack that left more than 100 people dead.
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Osorio stated that there was evidence that the three men had entered a FARC-controlled zone to train and instruct FARC members in weapons and offensive techniques.
Sinn FTin responded angrily to the pre-trial comments. Party chairman Mitchel McLaughlin described them as a “disgrace” and called for Osorio’s resignation. McLaughlin said that the allegations had seriously jeopardized the chances of three Irishmen getting a fair trial.
“These people are facing a trial in a society which does not have a great reputation of respect for human rights,” McLaughlin said. “I believe the possibility of their receiving a fair trial has already been significantly damaged and has been further damaged by that interview with the prosecutor general. In any other judicial process — even here — that would be a resignation matter and it should be for him, I believe.”
The row and the upcoming trial come against the backdrop of escalating violence in Colombia and a recent spate of incidents surrounding the inauguration of the new Colombian president, Alvaro Uribe.