30/07/2003

Colombia three appear before Bogota Court

The three Irish men facing charges relating to the training of left-wing FARC guerrillas in Colombia have made their first appearance in court in Bogota today.

The three men, Niall Connolly, Martin McAuley and James Monaghan, had previously refused to appear before the court because they claimed they would not receive a fair trial and that they feared for their safety.

Spokesperson for the Bring Them Home Campaign, Catriona Ruane, said that the decision by the men to appear in court today, and to make a statement, was acknowledgement of the contribution made by the international observers in the conduct of the trial.

In his concluding statement on Monday, Prosecutor Carlos Sanchez said that since 1998 there had been an increase in terrorist violence in Colombia and that this coincided with IRA members visiting the country.

However at the end of the prosecution’s summing up on Monday evening, the legal team for the defence requested that their clients be allowed to make a statement in court, which is their right under the Colombian justice system.

Although the case is expected to conclude this week, following statements from the defence, sentencing is likely to be deferred for some weeks.

The three men were detained travelling under false passports and are accused of training FARC guerrillas in the region controlled by the Marxist group.

(SP)

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