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August 05, 2005

Colombia Three News

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News about Ireland & the Irish

IT 08/06/05 Return Of Men Plunges Peace Process Into Crisis
IT 08/06/05 Robinson Insists On Arrest Of 'Colombia Three'
IT 08/06/05 Opposition Call On Ahern To Respond
BB 08/05/05 Irishmen Face Extradition Demand
IT 08/06/05 'There Hasn't Been Any Deal . . .'
IT 08/06/05 London Says It Would Extradite Men
BB 08/05/05 Q&A: The Colombia Connection
IT 08/06/05 How Events Unfolded
IT 08/06/05 The 'Colombia Three': Profiles


Return Of Men Plunges Peace Process Into Crisis

Deaglán de Bréadún, Foreign Affairs Correspondent

The Northern Ireland peace process was plunged into
crisis and the political and security system south of the
Border appeared to be in disarray over the secret return of
the so-called "Colombia Three" to Ireland this week.

It emerged last night that the Garda did not know the men -
James Monaghan, Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly - were
back in the country until the news broke in the media at
5pm yesterday.

The normal official outlets had little or nothing to offer
by way of comment about the shock news. It is understood
the men arrived back in the early part of the week and are
now at an undisclosed location with their families.

However, in an interview with RTÉ, James Monaghan denied he
was "on the run" and said he was willing to talk to the
Garda at any time. Last night, gardaí questioned RTÉ
reporter Charlie Bird, who conducted the interview.

Acting as Minister for Justice in the absence of Michael
McDowell, who is on holiday, Tánaiste Mary Harney said
there were very serious issues as to how the men were able
to return to this country, particularly as they had been
travelling on fraudulent passports.

In its statement issued through the Northern Ireland
Office, the British government said: "We have only just
become aware of the presence of these men in the Republic
of Ireland. That is a matter for the Irish authorities. If
they enter the UK an extradition request will be dealt with
without delay."

One of the three men, Niall Connolly, was convicted in the
Colombian courts of using a false Irish passport, whereas
the other two were using false British ones. But Sinn Féin
MLA Caitríona Ruane told a news conference that she did not
believe Mr Connolly could be tried again in Ireland for the
same offence.

The news also came as a major surprise to the Colombian
authorities. There was no official comment, apparently due
in part to the fact that President Uribe and Vice-President
Santos were both travelling and unavailable for comment.

There is no extradition treaty between Ireland and Colombia
but official Colombian government sources pointed out last
night that there was an Interpol arrest warrant out for the

However, the existence of an Interpol warrant is no
guarantee that any attempt to bring the men back to
Colombia to serve their 17½-year sentences would be
successful, particularly in the absence of any extradition

Ms Ruane, who has been the leading campaigner for the men's
return as spokeswoman for the Bring Them Home Campaign,
pointed out the men were originally found innocent on the
main charge of training the Farc guerrillas and that the
judge in the case had ordered two prosecution witnesses to
be investigated for perjury.

Speaking outside the Sinn Féin offices in Dublin's Parnell
Square, Ms Ruane said she had met all three since their
return to Ireland but she did not know where they were now,
although they had been reunited with their families.

The Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny demanded an immediate
statement from the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice
and called on them "to clarify whether this issue was part
of the negotiations between the Government and Sinn Féin".

However, a Government spokesman said the return of the men
was "not part of the discussions with Sinn Féin". The
Government "had no prior knowledge" of their return.

Apart from the Interpol arrest warrant, there does not
appear to be any other immediate grounds for security
action against the men over their activities in Colombia
now that they have returned.

The Northern Ireland Office also said the men's return was
not part of any arrangement or deal done.

There was an angry reaction from unionists with DUP deputy
leader Peter Robinson quoting President Bush's words that
whoever harboured a terrorist was a terrorist himself. Mr
Robinson asked where the Taoiseach stood in this regard.

"If Bertie Ahern fails to hand these men over, then in
President Bush's and our terms, he is a terrorist
collaborator. We demand the clearest statement from our own
prime minister that if these fugitives put one foot in
Northern Ireland they will be arrested pending extradition
proceedings and if the Colombian authorities seek
extradition, it will be granted."

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams was emphatic in denying
their arrival had anything to do with the his party's
contact with the Government following the IRA declaration
it had formally ended its campaign last week.

© The Irish Times


Robinson Insists On Arrest Of 'Colombia Three'

Dan Keenan, Northern News Editor

North reaction: Unionists, all of whom said they had no
warning of the men's return, reacted with anger.

The DUP claimed to have been tipped off by a British source
shortly before the story broke, while the Ulster Unionists
knew nothing until approached by The Irish Times yesterday

DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson said: "I have spoken to
our government this evening expressing our grave concern
about the 'Colombia Three' arriving in the Republic of

He said he asked them to convey in the strongest possible
terms to the Irish Government that allowing "these
fugitives from justice to live freely within the Republic
will be an intolerable affront.

"We are continually told that there must be a unified,
worldwide response to international terrorism," he said.

"We are looking for their immediate arrest and for the
Republic to hand them over to the Colombian authorities. Mr
Ahern must facilitate by whatever means necessary their
swift extradition. If he does not, unionists in Northern
Ireland will believe him to be complicit."

Mr Robinson claimed the men were "intricately involved in
the global terrorist network" and he advised Mr Ahern to
remember the words of President Bush when he said "those
who harbour terrorists are terrorists".

"If Bertie Ahern fails to hand these men over, then in
President Bush's and our terms, he is a terrorist
collaborator. We demand the clearest statement from our own
prime minister that if these fugitives put one foot in
Northern Ireland they will be arrested pending extradition
proceedings and if the Colombian authorities seek
extradition, it will be granted."

Sinn Féin MP for Newry and Armagh Conor Murphy welcomed the
men's return: "This evening's news that Jim Monaghan, Niall
Connolly and Martin McCauley have returned safely to
Ireland will come as a huge relief to their families and to
all those who have supported the Bring Them Home Campaign
over the past four years.

"Since 2001 the men's lives have been in grave danger and
they had their prospects of a fair trial completely
undermined due to prejudicial comments from the Colombian
military and senior politicians including the then

"During the lengthy trial the prosecution case collapsed
before the world's media and the trial judge found the men
innocent of all serious charges. This verdict was
disgracefully overturned by a secret appeals procedure."

Responding to comments from Mr Robinson and Fine Gael
leader Enda Kenny, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams added:
"I want to make clear that this issue was not discussed
with the Irish Government, nor was it either a deal or a
side deal related to recent developments in the peace

However, unionists claimed a deal had been arranged between
republicans and the Government.

Senior Ulster Unionist Michael McGimpsey said: "These men
are still wanted for crimes in Colombia. The Irish
Government have a duty to send them back to face due legal
process", but he admitted this was unlikely.

He accused the Government of having an arrangement with

"It is surely no coincidence that the 'Colombia Three' have
arrived home after the events of the last fortnight
emanating from the IRA statement. The Irish Government are
unlikely to send them back, as this move is likely to be
part of the latest concession choreography to republicans.

"The 'Colombia Three' are probably the first 'on the runs'
to be given a pardon. Once again, despicable political
expediency is replacing common sense and due process."

The SDLP's policing spokesman Alex Attwood said: "These men
were clearly up to no good. They served time for travelling
on false passports. They jumped bail. Above all, people
should not forget the huge damage that they did to the
peace process.

"Their return will not be celebrated by democratic
nationalists across the island."

The Northern Ireland Office swiftly denied the unionist
allegations that the return of the three was in any way
linked to the peace process, or formed part of any
arrangement with any party following the IRA declaration
that its campaign was formally over.

© The Irish Times


Opposition Call On Ahern To Respond

Liam Reid, Political Reporter

Dublin reaction: Opposition parties last night called on
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, and Minister for Justice Michael
McDowell, who are both on holidays, to make a statement on
the affair.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said the Taoiseach had to
clarify whether the issue was part of negotiations with
Sinn Féin.

Labour's deputy leader Liz McManus said the return of the
men one week after the IRA statement was "more than a
coincidence", and urged the Government to make a
categorical statement about whether there was any deal or
discussion about them with Sinn Féin in recent months.

"The Colombia Three have never been honest or truthful with
the Irish people about the activities in Colombia so
anything they say about the circumstances of their return
to Ireland should be treated with great caution," she said.

"We were told following their decision to jump bail that
neither Sinn Féin nor any of their supporters knew anything
about their whereabouts. Now a week after the IRA statement
they suddenly reappear in Ireland - an event that most
people will find difficult to accept as a mere coincidence.

"The appropriate legal authorities here will now have to
consider the position, including the question of whether or
not the possession by at least two of the men of forged
Irish passports requires any further action."

A spokesman for the Taoiseach said the 'Colombia Three'
were not discussed with Sinn Féin during discussions in the
run-up to last week's statement by the IRA. "The Colombia
Three were not part of discussions with Sinn Féin in any
way, shape or form," he said.

He also said Mr Ahern and the Government had "no prior
knowledge" of the return to the Republic of the three men.

The Government would, however, consider any request made by
the Colombian authorities in relation to the three men,
although it had no communication at this stage.

It is expected that Colombian authorities will make
representations to the Government about their extradition
back to Colombia in the coming weeks.

However, it is understood that because of the lack of an
extradition treaty between Colombia and Ireland, the
preliminary legal advice is that an extradition request is
unlikely to succeed.

As the Government came under pressure from unionist
politicians to have the men arrested, both the Government
and the Department of Justice declined to comment on their
legal status.

Asked whether the men could have breached Irish laws, and
whether there would be any inquiry into how they returned
into the Irish jurisdiction, the Government spokesman said
it was a matter for the Garda and the Director of Public

© The Irish Times


Irishmen Face Extradition Demand

Colombia is demanding the extradition of three men
sentenced to 17 years in jail for training Marxist rebels,
but who are now back in the Irish Republic.

Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and James Monaghan went
missing while on bail last December and have since secretly
returned to their homeland.

Colombia's vice president said Irish authorities had a
"legal and moral obligation" to return the republicans.

Currently, the two countries do not have an extradition

'No deal'

"Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern must demonstrate his
country's commitment to the global fight against
terrorism," Francisco Santos said in a statement.

The Colombian secret police are believed to be preparing an
extradition warrant for the trio.

Unionists greeted the men's return to the Irish Republic
with anger, but it was welcomed by Sinn Fein.

Irish state broadcaster RTE reported the trio had returned
in recent days.

Jim Monaghan, interviewed by RTE at a secret location,
denied that any deal had been done with the British or
Irish governments following the IRA's statement last week
in which it said it was ending its campaign of violence.

He said he did not consider himself to be "on the run" and
would not be hiding from Irish police.

Monaghan would not say how the three men got back to the
Republic of Ireland, but that they had got "a lot of help
from a lot of people" and that he would not endanger them.

He said he hoped the Irish government would not place any
obstacles in the way of the three men staying in the
country, adding it would be "very remiss to send anyone
back to Colombia".

He said the men would be seeking legal advice about the
possibility of extradition back to Colombia.

Intelligence sources believe the three Irishmen left via
Venezuela before going to Cuba, where Niall Connolly had
been Sinn Fein's representative, BBC correspondent Jeremy
McDermott reported from Colombia

Mr Santos said: "They have a judicial sentence over their
heads and we sincerely hope that they pay jail for it.

"We hope that the international police system will hand
them over to Colombia, even though that's difficult because
there's no extradition treaty between Ireland and

'Serious issues'

Irish deputy prime minister Mary Harney said there were
"very serious issues to be addressed, seeing as they were
travelling on false passports".

"This issue was not part of the government's discussions
with Sinn Fein and we had no prior knowledge of their
return to Ireland," said an Irish government spokesman.

And a Northern Ireland Office spokesman said: "We have only
just become aware of the presence of these men in the
Republic of Ireland.

"That is a matter for the Irish authorities. If they enter
the UK, an extradition request will be dealt with without

The men, who had been accused of being IRA members, were
found guilty of travelling on false passports.

They were acquitted of training Revolutionary Armed Forces
of Colombia (Farc) guerrillas, but that decision was
reversed after an appeal by the Colombian attorney general.

A judge had ordered the men to remain in the country
pending the outcome of the appeal.

An international arrest warrant was issued for them after
they disappeared.

McCauley, 41, is from Lurgan in County Armagh, Monaghan,
58, is from County Donegal and Connolly, 38, is from

The three had been detained at Bogota's El Dorado airport
in August 2001 as they were about to board a flight out of
the country.

Their arrest led to speculation that Irish republicans had
formed links with Farc.

The main charge against them was that they had been
teaching the rebels urban terrorism techniques.

The Irishmen strenuously denied this, saying they were in
the area to monitor the fledgling peace process as well as
being eco-tourists.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/08/06 02:25:34 GMT


'There Hasn't Been Any Deal . . .'

RTÉ's Charlie Bird spoke to one of the "Colombia Three",
James Monaghan, on the Six One television news last

The interview opened with a question about whether a deal
had been done whereby they felt able to return to Ireland.

JM: No, not that I am aware, there hasn't been any deal of
any sort. We returned as soon as we were able to return.

CB: How long are you back in Ireland and can you tell me
how you got here?

JM: I'm back in Ireland only a few days and, as you can
imagine, a lot of people in a lot of countries had to help
us, and I can't endanger those people by giving any details
about who they were or even where they were.

CB: Do you consider yourself on the run here in Ireland

JM: No. I wouldn't be giving this interview if I was on the
run. I'm back and I would hope that I would be left in
peace, and the Irish Government was quite good during the
time we were away and the Taoiseach asked that we would be
sent back while we were waiting on the appeal, so I would
hope that they would continue in that vein and that they
won't place any unnecessary things . . . But if it's the
case that the guards or someone want to talk to us or want
to talk to me that's all right.

CB: Some people might say that you were a leading member of
the IRA, who went to Colombia who got involved with the
Farc, with a rebel group out there involved in a bloody
campaign in that country and that you deserve all you get.

JM: Well, obviously some people might say that, but as an
ex-prisoner part of what the ex-prisoners' group Coiste na
nIarchimí would do is we're trying to aid the ongoing peace
process, and four years ago it hadn't come as far as it has
now and we went to Colombia to see the peace process then
in progress there.

CB: Can I press you just once again, can you put your hand
on your heart and say you did not go to Colombia to train
the Farc?

JM: Yes, with my hand on my heart I didn't go to train the
Farc; I went because of the peace process, because of our
own involvement in the peace process. I was delighted to go
to Colombia and as I say I have no regrets about it.

CB: What do you think of the Farc and their tactics?

JM: I haven't got an opinion on the Farc and their tactics
and I'm not going to get into a kind of a condemnation of
any particular group.

CB: Will you now seek legal advice to see how you may stay
in the country and how you might deal with your own case,
because your appeal is still pending?

JM: Obviously I will get legal advice about it, but as far
as I am concerned the Government would be very, very remiss
to send anyone to a country like Colombia.

CB: The Americans weren't very happy with you going to
Colombia so, in a sense, you may not have too may friends
particularly in some of these areas tonight - do you accept

JM: I accept that they won't be happy. The Americans went
out of their way to produce false evidence. So the
Americans won't be happy for the reason that their false
evidence didn't stick.

© The Irish Times


London Says It Would Extradite Men

Frank Millar, London Editor

British reaction: The British government has said it
would extradite the so-called "Colombia Three" if they
entered the UK.

Downing Street and the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) last
night refused to comment on the acute political challenge
now facing Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, insisting this was for
now "a matter for the Irish authorities".

However, the "huge" nature of that challenge was spelt out
by Colombian officials, who quoted up-to-date foreign
ministry advice that the three men "are fugitives from
justice in the eyes of Colombian law" and the subject of an
international arrest warrant issued by the Colombian
authorities to Interpol.

In its statement issued through the NIO, the British
government said: "We have only just become aware of the
presence of these men in the Republic of Ireland. That is a
matter for the Irish authorities. If they enter the UK an
extradition request will be dealt with without delay."

Asked if they had prior knowledge that the men were
returning to Ireland, or if the men were the subject of any
part of the negotiation of the IRA statement formally
ending its armed campaign, prime minister Tony Blair's
official spokesman told The Irish Times: "Categorically

© The Irish Times


Q&A: The Colombia Connection

The arrest of three Irishmen in Colombia back in August
2001 sparked a major controversy in the Northern Ireland
political process.

Their initial acquittal has now been overturned by a higher
court which imposed sentences of 17 years on each of them.

BBC News explains the background to the case.

Q: What started all this off?

On 11 August 2001, authorities in the Colombian capital
Bogota said they had arrested three Irish men who had been
in an area of the country controlled by the Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), marxist rebels waging an
ongoing guerrilla war.

The three men were named as James Monaghan, Niall Connolly
and Martin McCauley.

The authorities accused them of being members of the IRA
and of training FARC fighters, something they denied.

The three men had been travelling on false passports. At
first they said they were eco-tourists but later added they
were there to study the Colombia peace process. The trial
was delayed because of security fears.

Q: What effect did this have in Northern Ireland?

While the IRA is long known to have nurtured international
links with paramilitary organisations including ETA in
Spain and Palestinian groups, the news came as a total
surprise. While security forces tried to assess what was
going on, Sinn Fein denied that the three men were working
for the party.

The first question that people wanted answering was, if the
men were members of the IRA, what were they doing in

And if they were there as members of the IRA, what
implications did this have for the peace process?

Q: How did unionists react?

With suspicion. They demanded answers from Sinn Fein at a
time when the peace process was deadlocked.

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble had resigned as first
minister of the power-sharing assembly because the IRA had
yet to start decommissioning weapons.

He said the suspected Colombia connection did nothing to
encourage the unionist community to trust republicans.

Their mood worsened when it emerged that the three men did
indeed have republican links.

James Monaghan had escaped explosives charges in the 1970s
but had resurfaced in the 1980s as a member of the Sinn
Fein executive.

Niall Connolly was described as Sinn Fein's Spanish-
speaking Cuba representative. Martin McCauley had been a
party worker.

Q: What did the republicans say?

The IRA tried to end the matter with a statement on 19
September 2001, accusing others of "ill-founded and
mischievous speculation". It insisted that it had neither
sent anyone to Colombia nor interfered in its internal

However, as the parties found a way out of the deadlock in
October, Sinn Fein changed its position.

On the day before the IRA decommissioned weapons for the
first time, Gerry Adams admitted that Niall Connolly worked
for the party in Cuba, but he and other party leaders had
not been aware of this fact.

Q: What happened next?

The Colombia connection has not been an issue in Northern
Ireland alone.

An estimated 90% of cocaine and 65% of heroin sold in
America comes from Colombia. Washington blames "narco-
terrorist" organisations, led by Farc for this supply.

Senior figures in Washington said they were determined to
investigate the IRA's alleged involvement with Colombia's
rebels, a mood that hardened in the wake of September 11's
war on terror.

The issue came to a head in March 2002 when a US
Congressional committee asked Gerry Adams to testify.

He declined, saying that he did not want to prejudice the
forthcoming trial of the three men.

For its part, the IRA issued another statement, underlining
that it had "not interfered in the internal affairs of
Colombia and will not do so".

Q: How did the committee react?

The committee subsequently said that it believed that the
IRA was one of a number of groups who had visited Colombian

"It is likely that in the former Farc safe haven these
terrorist groups had been sharing techniques, honing their
terrorism skills, using illicit drug proceeds in payment".

Q: What happened when the case reached court?

In April this year, the three men were acquitted of the
most serious charge of training Marxist rebels in Colombia.
They were found guilty of travelling on false passports and
paid a fine.

But the judge ordered them to remain in the country while
the Colombian attorney general appealed their acquittal.

This appeal was successful and the men were each sentenced
to 17 years. Arrest warrents were issued but reports from
Colombia say the trio have fled the country .

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/12/16 18:32:42 GMT


How Events Unfolded

Christine Newman

August 11th, 2001: James Monaghan (60), Martin McCauley
(42) and Niall Connolly (39), travelling under assumed
names, arrived at Bogota's El Dorado Airport on an internal
flight from the Farc-controlled town of San Vicente del
Caguan. The Colombian military were waiting and the men
were seized.

October 2002: The trial began after a protracted pre-trial

There were two basic charges: of training an illegal
guerrilla army in bomb-making techniques and using false
public documentation, ie passports. The charges against the
accused rested mainly on testimony from alleged Farc

August 2003: The trial ended with no sign of a verdict.

April 26th, 2004: The three were found not guilty by Judge
Jairo Acosta on the charge of training Farc guerrillas but
given sentences of two to four years on a charge of using
false passports. The Irishmen were subsequently released on
bail and went into hiding in Colombia.

Public prosecutor Dr Carlos Sanchez Peinado appealed the
verdict and the men were given conditional liberty with
orders to remain in Colombia pending the result of the

December 16th, 2004: In an appeal ruling with one of the
three judges dissenting, the not-guilty verdict on the
charge of training the Farc was reversed. McCauley was
sentenced to 17 years' imprisonment and a fine of about
$210,000, and Monaghan and Connolly were each sentenced to
17 years and six months, with fines of about $240,000.

The men could not be traced and were being sought by

© The Irish Times


The 'Colombia Three': Profiles

James Monaghan

In July 1976, Monaghan and three others escaped from their
cell at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin following an
explosion at the building.

That year, he began a prison sentence, as he described it,
"as a result of my participation in the war against British
occupation of part of Ireland". He was released in 1985.

After his release he joined Sinn Féin and became a senior
member. He was the director of education for five years.

Martin John McCauley

McCauley was born in Lurgan, Co Armagh, in December 1962.
He had featured in one of the more dramatic and tragic
incidents of the Troubles.

In winter 1982, with another youngster, he was ambushed by
the security forces who were monitoring an arms cache in an
isolated farmyard near Lurgan.

The other youth, Michael Tighe (17), was shot dead.

The event was captured on tape, but efforts to acquire it
during the subsequent "Stalker Inquiry" to see if the two
youngsters were given any warning turned out to be
unsuccessful. He had served time in prison for Republican

Niall Connolly

Connolly is from south Dublin. He was born in 1965 and is
the youngest of the three.

He is the only one with fluent Spanish. He had been a
development aid worker in Latin America. He had no previous

A member of a well-known Dublin family and brother of
prominent investigative journalist Frank Connolly, he was
the Sinn Féin representative in Cuba,although this was
initially denied by the party.

© The Irish Times

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