Irish Republican News · February 25, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Colombia 3 still in danger

An intervention by the Irish Embassy in Mexico City has stopped the transfer of one of the "Colombia Three" from a remand prison to a jail for convicted prisoners, a lawyer for the three men has said.

Agustin Jimenez said Niall Connolly was to be moved from the Modelo Prison for prisoners awaiting trial in the centre of Bogota to the Combita prison for convicted criminals, 250 kilometres north of the city.

The three Irishmen are charged with travelling on false passports and helping left-wing FARC guerrillas.

According to Mr Jimenez the decision to move Mr Connolly to Combita was taken on Sunday but was reversed by the action of the embassy in Mexico City which serves Irish interests in Colombia.

Objections were raised on the basis that Mr Connolly has not been convicted.

The trial of the three men ended in November but the judge has yet to deliver his verdict.

Mr Connolly is the only one of the three who speaks Spanish and his departure would, according to Mr Jimenez, leave the other two at an increased disadvantage. In addition, Combita has a bad reputation for violence between prisoners of opposing factions.

Mr Jimenez also expressed concern at the judge's delay in delivering his verdict, saying he feared there was political pressure to hold over the judgment until the end of a UN Human Rights Commission meeting in April.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that the Vice-President of Colombia, Francisco Santos, is to be invited to meet a Dublin parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee to discuss human rights issues in his country during a visit to Ireland in mid-March.

A Fianna Fail member of the committee, Senator Mary White, has said the three men were in a "very depressed" state after 2? years in prison.

Reporting on her sixth visit to Bogota to monitor the case, she said: "The continued delay in the judgment is clearly adding to the strain on the men and is taking its toll on their well-being.

"The fact that Ireland holds the EU presidency at present adds to the significance of the case and offers the Irish Government additional leverage in pressing for a speedy and fair conclusion.

"The recent visit of Chris Patten, Commissioner for External Relations of the EU, put further focus on the human rights conditions in Colombia as an issue in the EU/Colombian relationship."

The trial of the three men ended on August 1st last year and six months later there is no verdict. The men have now been held in Colombian jails for about three years.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News