The so-called evidence used against the Colombia Three was dismissed in the dissenting opinion of a judge on the three-member appeal tribunal, it has emerged.
At a press conference in Bogota yesterday, defence lawyers presented the sharply dissenting opinion signed by Magistrate Jorge Enrique Torres.
Torres sat on the appeal tribunal which shocked human righhts observers by overturning the original verdict clearing the three Irishmen of charges of training rebels in Colombia’s civil war.
The three Irishmen, James Monaghan, Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly were handed 17-year jail sentences in a 2-1 decision clearly driven by political and military motivations.
Judge Torres, however, backed the original innocent verdict. “I was overwhelmed by the countless amount of technical evidence used in this case that was questionable,” he was quoted as saying.
Judge Acosta’s verdict was appealed by the Colombian attorney general and the men were freed on bail to await the verdict of the tribunal. When heavy sentences and fines were imposed, they could not be found. The defence team said they hoped the appeal verdict would now be overturned. It is undeerstood they will use the dissenting opinion as part of their appeal to Colombia’s Supreme Court.
Defence lawyer Pedro Mahecha claimed the dissenting opinion showed the other two appeal judges were swayed by pressure from Colombian politicians and military officials. “Torres clearly points out that there was no certainty of guilt in the case. The ruling was completely politicised.”
Sinn Féin justice spokesperson, Gerry Kelly, who attended the men’s trial, said: “The three men have said from the start that they were innocent of the charges. Judge Torres’ assertions support the findings of the original trial judge Acosta who found the men innocent and who called for an inquiry into the evidence of eyewitnesses who clearly perjured themselves.
“Judge Torres’ statement is a very strong indictment of the case the prosecution said they had.”
Caitriona Ruane of the Bring Them Home campaign, said the judge’s comments were “a scathing indictment of the trial”.
“These comments completely vindicate what we have been saying all along. The judge has been extremely critical of his two colleagues.
“These three Irishmen should be at home with their families. Instead they are in hiding, in fear of their lives.
“We are calling on the Irish government to make urgent representations to the Colombian authorities about their case”.