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1 July 2004 Edition

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Dublin Government must follow up on Colombia Three

BY JOANNE CORCORAN

"The message we're getting from people all over Ireland is that if these three men were from any other country in Europe they would be home by now," Sinn Féin MLA and Bring Them Home spokesperson Caitríona Ruane told An Phoblacht on Wednesday.

Ruane was speaking as Jim Monaghan, Niall Connolly and Martin McCauley remain in hiding in Colombia.

The three men were arrested in August 2001 on charges of training FARC guerrillas and carrying false passports. In April, they were cleared of the more serious charges of training the left-wing Colombian rebels.

The men were released from a jail weeks ago, but despite their acquittal they have been forced to stay in a secure location ever since, awaiting an appeal lodged against them by the Colombian Attorney General.

"They are in good form, but they have no communication with anyone, not their families or their lawyers," Ruane said.

"The Dublin Government's intervention with President Uribe earlier in the year was very welcome, but at this stage we're saying they have to step it up a notch or two. They need to follow up on the good work they've started."

The Bring Them Home spokesperson added that the Attorney General is the only person standing in the way of the men's return to Ireland.

"When people in Ireland hear 'Attorney General' they think of Rory Brady," she said. "Well, Luis Camilo Osorio is not Rory Brady. This man was responsible for the entirely fabricated case against the men in the first place. In fact, Judge Acosta, when acquitting the men, ordered an investigation into the two prosecution witnesses put forward by Osario's office.

"The man has an absolutely appalling record in human rights. Now he's appealing a judgement in a case he created from nothing. There's no logic in that and it's completely unacceptable."

Speculation has been rife that Osario will delay the appeal for up to five years to avoid an investigation into the work of his own office.

"If it's looking prolonged, which is in his interest, then we have a few avenues open to us," Ruane said. "We will of course continue down the line of political pressure, but we will also be looking at a legal remedy. The Attorney General has no cause for appeal, so first and foremost we will be tackling that."

Ruane added that people should remain positive, even if the men are still in a bad situation.

"Those men could have been starting a 25-year sentence by now," she said. "When you look at it like that, it's easy to see the positive side."

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