Irish Republican News · April 26, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]

A court tribunal in Bogota has refused the Colombia 3 permission to return to Ireland while an appeal against their recent exoneration is being heard.

Supporters expressed bitter disappointment at the decision, which emerged as the men were finally released from a Colombian jail almost three years since their original arrest on charges of training rebels and using false passports.

The men left La Modelo Gaol on Tuesday evening under private security. An offer of state security for the men was refused because of fears of collusion with right-wing forces.

They now face a lengthy stay in the country, with the constant fear of attacks by right-wing paramilitaries. The men have been targeted following prejudicial media coverage and comments by political leaders.

Defence lawyers petitioned the three-member appeal tribunal to allow the men to go back to Ireland while the appeal was under consideration. But this week the tribunal, headed by Marta Lucia Tamayo, turned down the men’s request to leave the country.

The spokeswoman for the Bring Them Home Campaign and Sinn Féin member of the Belfast Assembly, Caitriona Ruane called on the Colombian judiciary to expedite the appeal.

It was also reported that the men were ordered to vacate La Modelo prison, where they had remained as a security measure.

“Colombia is not a secure environment for the men,” said Ms Ruane. “The Judge’s decision that the men were innocent of the serious charges should have been the end of the matter. We believe it is unjust that they have to remain in the country. They remain in very difficult and dangerous circumstances.

“We are calling on the Colombian Judicial system to expedite this case in the interests of natural justice. We are calling on Bertie Ahern to make urgent representation to President Uribe on this matter.

“The men are in good spirits and we look forward to the men returning to Ireland to be reunited with their families”.

Sinn Féin Assembly member, speaking from Bogota, said he was astonished at the decision of Colombian Magistrates to refuse to allow the three to retun home. He called on the Irish government to intervene immediately to ensure that the men are brought home safely to their families.

“It is astonishing given the imminent danger they face and given the intervention of the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, that the Colombian Magistrates have refused this request,” he said.

“I am now calling on the Irish government to make representations to the Colombian authorities to get this matter sorted out as soon as possible for the safety of the men.”

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© 2004 Irish Republican News