7 August 2003 Edition
Colombia Three await verdict
BY JOANNE CORCORAN
The trial of the Colombia Three came to a close last week with the defence accusing the Colombian military and political establishment of using the three Irish citizens to secure more US military aid. The men's lawyers rubbished the case put forward by the prosecution and asked that the judge make his decision based purely on the evidence put in front of him.
Jose Luis Velasco, defence lawyer for Martin McCauley, told the judge how the stories of numerous prosecution witnesses had been picked apart, how respected individuals had come forward to testify to the men's whereabouts at the times they were supposed to be training FARC rebels, and how forensic evidence against the men had been contradicted by independent forensic experts.
He also pointed out to the judge that there had been a malicious campaign orchestrated against the men, alleging that they were members of the IRA when in fact they weren't.
Speaking to An Phoblacht on Wednesday, Bring Them Home spokesperson Caitriona Ruane said "there is absolutely no evidence against these men and we are calling on the judge to come to a decision based only on the evidence in front of him.
"If he does this, then we are confident that the men will be home with their families soon. We have condemned the interference of political and military figures in this case and we're calling on the Irish government to intervene to ensure that there is justice. In the meantime, we're telling people that there is absolutely no room for complacency now that the courtroom activity is over," she added.
"We need people to write to and contact Colombian embassies worldwide to express their anger that these men have been held for so long and to demand that the judge be allowed to come to the right decision - not the one that certain people are telling him to. These embassies need to be inundated with letters."
Caitriona added that the judge is expected to return with his verdict, hopefully, by September.
Just hours off the plane in Ireland, Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe, a member of the delegation that visited the men for the trial's closing, said that it had been even harder to leave them behind this time.
"This was my fifth trip to Colombia and each time it gets more emotional," the Dublin TD told An Phoblacht. "The case against the three men has been shredded by the defence. But the problem, as always, is that this case has had a political element from the start.
"While we were over there, General Mora called for the men to be found guilty, while President Uribe has said that it is better for judges to be arbitrary than weak.
"We had three visits with the men when we were there," he added. "They are in good spirits, but the next few weeks will be a nightmare. They are facing a vacuum. The judge is meant to make his decision in 15 days but he's already made it clear that it will take longer. He's under intense pressure to find them guilty."
Seán said the delegation was no safer on their trip this time, although with the exception of an incident involving Niall Andrews, there were no major upsets. The delegation also met with trade unionists in Colombia including some from the Coca-Cola factories whose lives are under threat.
"The trade unionists in our group, from Ireland and Australia, pledged to give the Colombian trade unions as much support as they could," Seán said.
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