12 August 2005

Irish diplomat in talks over Colombia Three

BreakingNews.ie

12/08/2005 - 00:15:42

A top Irish diplomat pledged today to explore ways in which Ireland could hand over three IRA-linked men convicted of supporting terrorism in Colombia, despite the lack of an extradition treaty.

“Ireland will meet its obligations under international law,” said Art Agnew, Irish ambassador to Mexico, who is also responsible for Colombia, after discussing the situation with Colombian vice president Francisco Santos in Bogota.

Agnew acknowledged that the lack of a treaty between the two countries “presents a problem”, but nevertheless insisted “there could be other mechanisms” that would permit the three men’s extradition.

He said that the two sides were looking into all the possibilities and that ultimately a ruling on extradition would be left up to Irish courts.

Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and Jim Monaghan were convicted of training left-wing rebels in terrorist tactics and sentenced to 17 years behind bars. But the trio disappeared eight months ago before resurfacing in Ireland last week.

Santos said today's meeting - the first direct encounter between the two governments since the trio resurfaced - was very friendly and he was confident a solution to the “problematic” issue would be reached.

“What we’ve found from the Irish government is its complete willingness to work with us to find a way out of this, and that’s what one hopes for,” the Colombian vice president said.

Earlier this week, Santos said that if Ireland did not extradite the three men, it should at least force them to serve their sentences in an Irish prison.

Santos and Agnew would not indicate whether this possibility was discussed during their half-hour meeting.

The trio’s return to Ireland was revealed when Monaghan gave an interview to RTE on August 5. In the interview, Monaghan said many people in many countries had helped them travel from Colombia back to Ireland.

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