18 March 2004 Edition

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Bring Them Home campaigners to picket Colombian Vice President

Supporters of the three Irishmen held in Bogota, are to stage a protest during the visit of the vice president of Colombia, Francisco Santos to Dublin next week. Mr Santos will meet the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brian Cowen and members of the Dáil Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday 23 March.

His trip to Ireland is part of a series of such discussions taking place in Dublin during the Irish presidency of the European Union.

Caitríona Ruane, the spokeswoman for the Bring them Home Campaign, which is seeking the immediate release of the three men, Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and Jim Monaghan, has called on the public to join their peaceful protest outside the gates of Leinster House at 12.30pm on Tuesday 23 March.

"These man have been separated from their families and detained in dangerous and inhumane conditions for two and a half years," she said. "We have yet to get a verdict in the case almost nine months since the end of their trial in which there was no evidence presented to link them to the main charges of training FARC guerillas.

"Vice President Santos presides over a government that has one of the worst records of human rights in the world. The rights of these three Irishmen have been systematically violated since their arrest. It is a disgrace.

"The trial of the three Irishmen ended in early August last year and the judge has indicated that there may be a judgement sometime in March. At a meeting we had with the Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos he also informed us that there would a decision in March. A number of Irish political and legal observers who attended the trial have supported the view that there is no concrete evidence linking them to the main charges, which carry heavy jail sentences on conviction.

"Last month, Fianna Fáil MEP Niall Andrews voiced their concerns about the treatment of the three men when they met the Colombian president, Alvaro Uribe in Brussels. Mr Andrews said that having attended the trial hearings he was satisfied there was no legal case against the men on the training charges and that they should be returned to their families immediately."


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