06 August 2005

Colombian government demand return of IRA suspects


06/08/2005 - 02:02:04

Colombia has demanded that the Irish government extradite the three IRA-linked fugitives who were sentenced to 17 years in prison by a Colombian court of training Marxist rebels in terrorist tactics.

“Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern must demonstrate his country’s commitment to the global fight against terrorism,” Colombian vice president Francisco Santos said in a statement.

Santos said the Taoiseach had the “legal and moral obligation” to return the three men to Colombia even though the two countries do not have an extradition treaty.

Jim Monaghan, Niall Connolly and Martin McCauley were arrested in Bogota in 2001 after leaving a jungle stronghold of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and accused of teaching the rebels how to make IRA-style weaponry.

The trio, who deny the accusations, spent 34 months in a Colombian jail cell before a June 2004 court acquittal. The judge, however, demanded they remain in Colombia pending a state appeal to a higher court.

In December, the first ruling was overturned and the men sentenced to up to 17 years in prison, but by that point authorities had lost track of them – until they resurfaced in Ireland yesterday despite n international arrest warrant against them.

“A Colombian court issued its verdict that confirmed what we believed from the start: that they were three IRA terrorists – explosives experts – who came to Colombia to train the FARC,” Santos said.

The FARC, which funds itself through drug trafficking and kidnapping, has been battling to topple the government since 1964.

Santos insisted that the ongoing peace process in the North should not be allowed to impede the men’s extradition.

“The crimes committed by the Irish citizens and the judicial case against them are not related to the Irish (peace) process,” the vice president said. “Their case involves collaboration and participation in terrorist activities in Colombia.”

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