Colombia VP `has no understanding of human rights'

The international observers who travelled to Colombia to observe the trial of the three Irishmen currently detained in Colombia met with Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos in Dublin on Tuesday.

Mr Santos said his government could not interfere in the case. He said he would like to see a verdict as soon as possible but that the judiciary was independent of the government.

The three men - Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and James Monaghan -- are being held on charged of training rebels in Colombia's civil war.

Fianna Fail senator Mary White, one of the international observers who attended the trial, said that she was ``bitterly disappointed'' by Mr Santos's comments.

She also said that he had made prejudicial remarks about the Irishmen during yesterday morning's meeting.

Bring Them Home Campaign spokeswoman Caitriona Ruane accused Mr Santos of having ``no understanding of the concept of human rights''.

Hopes that a verdict would be handed down by the end of this month appear to be fading with no news yet that the judge has reached a decision.

The Bring Them Home Campaign organised a peaceful demonstration to coincide with Mr Santos's meeting with the Foreign Affairs Committee at the Dublin parliament. More than 100 people attended the protest and were addressed by Mr McCauley's wife Christine.

Caitriona Ruane, Sinn Féin Assembly member and campaigner for the `Colombia 3', said the vice president was told that Colombia was in breach of Colombian and International law in relation to the rights of the three men.

``It is obvious to everyone who observed the trial that the case against the men was a total and utter fabrication and that military witnesses perjured themselves on the stand.''

``It is also unacceptable 8 months after the trial is finished that there is still no verdict and the men are still detained in one of the most dangerous prisons in the world. The men have now been 2 years and 8 months in jail.''

She also called on Minister Brian Cowen, to publicly stand up for the rights of Irish citizens, saying he had been ``too timid''.

``The message that Mr. Santos should be leaving Ireland with is a clear one, send these men home now.''

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