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25 September 2003 Edition

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19 Australian MPs concerned about Colombia Three trial

Delegation requests meeting with Consul -

Nineteen members of the New South Wales Parliament in Australia, including two Cabinet Ministers, three Parliamentary Secretaries and the President of the Upper House or Legislative Council, have written to the Colombian Consul in Sydney and the Colombian Ambassador in Canberra to express their concern in relation to the trial of Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and James Monaghan.

In the letter, they requested that "Judge Acosta be allowed the space and possibility to come to an independent judgement. He should be allowed to make a decision that comes from the evidence before him and is not affected by outside military or political forces". They also said they "will pay careful regard to reports from international legal observers and civil and human rights groups".

Caitriona Ruane from the Bring Them Home Campaign thanked the Australian MPs for their contribution "towards a fair decision for Niall, Martin and Jim.

"We would also like to thank the Australian observers (Elected representatives, lawyers, and trade unionists) who travelled to Colombia for every session of the trial," she said.

"We are calling on the Irish government to publicly intervene in this case and inform the Colombian authorities that it is not acceptable that three Irish citizens are being treated in this way. The Bring Them Home group will continue to campaign throughout the world until the three men are safe and sound at home with their partners and children. What has happened to date is a travesty of justice."

Act for Justice for Colombia Three

The juryless trial, before a single Colombian judge, of Irishmen Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and James Monaghan, began on 4 October 2002 and concluded on 1 August 2003 after seven adjournments. The men are courageously represented by Colombian human rights lawyers. Judge Acosta has reserved judgment and his verdict is expected soon, possibly in October.

The campaign's focus at this critical stage is on the Colombian government. They need to know that the world is watching how fairly and independently their judicial system operates.

"We are asking that Judge Acosta be permitted to make his judgment based on the evidence, free from political or military pressure from Colombia or any other outside influence," says Bring Them Home campaign spokesperson CaitrĂ­ona Ruane. "If that happens, we are confident of the result."

"The evidence is clearly on the side of Connolly, McCauley and Monaghan. Based on the evidence it provided at trial, the prosecution has no case with regards the principle charge of training FARC military."

The men were arrested in August 2001 in the open Peace Zone. Peace advocates from around the world have also traveled there, including elected political leaders and human rights activists from around the world. The three men declare they were in the zone to share their experiences from the Irish peace process and to bring back to Ireland what they learned from the Colombian peace process, which was ongoing.

The prosecution's case was filled with inconsistencies and allegations refuted by clear video evidence, countered by testimony from credible defense witnesses and authenticated affidavits placing the defendants elsewhere when they were supposedly training FARC. These include Irish government diplomats and human rights organisation workers who testified at trail, former employers, and others.

The forensics do not support the case against the men either. Dr Keith Borer, a famous, independent forensic scientist, examined all the materials in regard to the forensic tests carried out at the US Embassy and stated in court that there is no forensic evidence against the men. Colombian forensic tests proved negative after 113 tries to find a positive result. Dr Borer also testified that FARC technology is unchanged during this time and that FARC and IRA technology were and remain very different. In other words, there is no evidence, real or theoretical, that these men were training FARC.

The Bring Them Home campaign is calling on people around the world who are concerned for the fate of the three Irishmen to send letters outlining their concerns to Colombian embassies and consulates.

The aim is to bombard the Colombian establishment with protests.

Contact Colombian embassies and consulates throughout the world.

Write a personalised letter directly to the Colombian President Alvaro Uribe at [email protected]

The President can also be contacted by E-mail through the Colombian web site:

http://www.colombiaemb.org

In Ireland contact:

Colombian Honorary Consul

Mr Ines Elvira de Tynan

Calima

Brighton Road

Foxrock

Dublin 18

e-mail : [email protected]

In the US, contact:

Ambassador Luis Alberto Moreno,

The Embassy of Colombia,

2118 Lero Place NW,

Washington, D.C. 20008;

Phone: 202 387-8338; Fax: 202-232-8643;

E-mail: [email protected]

In Australia contact:

Mr. J Alzamora

Colombian Consul General

Level 12, 100 Walker Street

North Sydney, 2000

Australia

In England, Scotland & Wales contact:

Colombian Embassy

3 Hans Crescent

London SWIX OLN

Tel. 0207 589 9177 / 589 5037 (Human Rights Officer's extension is 112)

Fax 0207 581 1829 / 589 4718

website www.colombianembassy.co.uk

email [email protected]

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