20 February 2003 Edition

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Video footage discredits Colombian state witness

Dublin under pressure to intervene



BY JOANNE CORCORAN


A videotape released by the Bring Them Home campaign has demolished the testimony of an alleged FARC supergrass who earlier this month gave evidence against the three Irishmen facing charges in Colombia. The Dublin government is now under intense pressure to intervene in the case.

At 6pm on Monday, footage showing Jim Monaghan giving a talk in Belfast on 22 February 2001 was broadcast on RTE's main Six-One News bulletin. This came after 'star' prosecution witness Edwin Giovanny Rodgriquez claimed emphatically that he saw the three Irishmen giving lectures on bomb making to FARC rebels between 5 and 25 February 2001.

Niall Connolly, Jim Monaghan and Martin McCauley have been held in various Colombian jails since their arrest in August 2001. They are charged with using false public documents and training FARC guerillas.

The Bring Them Home Campaign provided news media with copies of the videotape which shows Jim Monaghan giving a talk in Belfast to former republican prisoners at an EU-funded course on public speaking and communications skills.

Campaign spokesperson Caitríona Ruane said: "Since the case began, it has been mired in controversy. First the witnesses did not appear, then the court tried to force the defence to go first; now we can prove that Edwin Giovanny Rodgriquez perjured himself on the stand two weeks ago in a court in Colombia.

Ruane says the video is just one of a number of items that the men's defence have in their possession that prove that Jim Monaghan and Martin McCauley were in Ireland from 5-25 February 2001.

"Jim Monaghan and Martin McCauley were in Ireland and we have irrefutable evidence to prove this," she said. "Niall Connolly was not in Colombia on those dates and we will also prove that."

RTE also interviewed a key defence witness who was with Jim Monaghan on 22 February. Catherine Murphy, vice chairperson of Coiste na nIarchimí, was training a group of ex-prisoners at the Belfast meeting.

"We have given a copy to Brian Cowen, Minister for Foreign Affairs," said Ruane. " It is time that the Irish government intervened in this case.

"There is a miscarriage of justice occurring, the Colombian state is going to great lengths to fabricate a case against these three Irish citizens. We are calling on the Irish government to call for their release and get them sent home to their families. They have been 18 months in jails in Colombia without a shred of evidence being produced."


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