18 August 2005

Police question 'Colombia three'

BBC


The three republicans are being interviewed by gardai

The Irish police have confirmed they are interviewing the three republicans wanted in Colombia for training Marxist rebels.

James Monaghan, Martin McAuley and Niall Connolly, are currently being held in various police stations in Dublin.

They were sentenced to 17 years in jail in Colombia last year.

They vanished in December 2004 while on bail pending an appeal and have since returned to the Republic of Ireland.

An Irish police statement said: "An Garda Siochana can confirm that contact has been ongoing with the legal representatives of James Monaghan, Martin McAuley and Niall Connolly.

"At this time, all three of the above named are currently being interviewed at various garda stations in Dublin."

James Monaghan is understood to be at Terenure garda station in the south of the city, while other reports said another of the three was at Kilmainham station in the west of the city.

A garda spokesman would not say if the men were under arrest or were assisting police voluntarily, although unconfirmed reports said one of them had been arrested.

Caitriona Ruane of the Bring Them Home campaign said the men had made themselves available to talk to Irish police.

"They are not on the run," she said.

"Their wish now is to be allowed the time and space to get on with their lives and live in peace with their families here in Ireland."

Acquitted

News of their return broke when Irish state broadcaster RTE interviewed James Monaghan at a secret location on 5 August.

It prompted speculation that their return had been part of a deal with the IRA and Sinn Fein, a claim which Taoiseach Bertie Ahern broke off from his holiday to deny.

Colombian vice-president Francisco Santos has said he wants the men extradited but said he did not rule out allowing them to serve their sentences in Ireland.

The trio, who had been accused of being IRA members, were arrested in Bogota in August 2001.

They were found guilty of travelling on false passports in June 2004, but were acquitted of training the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc).

That decision was reversed after an appeal by the Colombian attorney general and they were sentenced to 17-year terms.

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