20 August 2005

State to assist any bid to extradite Colombia Three

Irish Examiner

**WITH A REPUBLIC LIKE THIS, WHO NEEDS THE BRITS?

Shaun Connolly, Political Correspondent
20 August 2005

THE Government vowed last night to assist any bid to ship the Colombia Three back to South America.
The comments by Foreign Affairs Minister of State Conor Lenihan came as the trio remained at liberty as gardaí moved to send files on them to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

But legal experts queried the Government’s “grandstanding” stance, pointing out there was no extradition treaty between the Republic and Colombia and little confidence in that country’s legal system.

Mr Lenihan again pledged Ireland will “meet its international obligations” in relation to the three Irishmen convicted of training FARC rebels.

The lack of a formal treaty means an extradition request would be referred to the Irish courts, the minister said.

The remarks drew derision from Aisling Reigy of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.

“I understand the Government wants to look as if it is doing all it can, but the reality is there is little confidence in the Colombian legal system and I think it is very unlikely an Irish court would allow extradition,” she said.

The comments came as Sinn Féin rejected claims the appearance of Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and James Monaghan at separate garda stations on Thursday was a publicity stunt.

Connolly was questioned in connection with the use of a false Irish passport but was released without charge at midnight.

Monaghan and McCauley, who travelled in Colombia on forged British passports, were interviewed voluntarily and left different garda stations after about six hours of questioning.

The Colombian authorities have called for all three men to be returned to that country to serve their prison sentences, but have yet to formally request extradition.

Mr Lenihan said the return to Ireland of the men had been unhelpful to efforts to restore devolution in the North.

He added the Government did not have any advance knowledge of the trio’s return nor did the issue arise in any discussions with Sinn Féin.

The three men fled Colombia last December after being sentenced to 17 years each for training FARC rebels.

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