The Dublin government was today urged to intervene in a bid to have three republicans held in Colombia returned home.

Martin McGuinness, Sinn Féin’s Mid Ulster MP, warned that the situation for the men was now very dangerous.

James Monaghan, Niall Connolly and Martin McCauley, who were cleared of training left-wing rebels, have been told they must remain in the country until an appeal is heard.

It could be several months before a decision is taken, but the process could ultimately take several years.

The three men have been free to leave prison in Bogota since the verdict was announced over two weeks ago. Supporters have not paid their fines for travelling on false passports, fearing their lives will be more at risk outside the jail.

Mr McGuinness today called on the authorities in Dublin to make new representations and have the three allowed home until the prosecution’s appeal is heard. He said the process could take years to complete.

There was “deep anger and concern” in Ireland at the decision of Judge Acosta to refuse to allow Martin McCauley, Niall Connolly and Jim Monaghan to return to Ireland while they are waiting on the Prosecution appeal of their innocent verdict to take place.

He added: “Every hour that the men remain in Colombia their lives are in grave danger. They cannot be protected in prison in Bogota, and the Colombian authorities have turned down all requests to ensure the men`s safety on their release.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said the Irish government had urged the Colombian authorities to allow the men to leave the country in light of the security situation there pending the hearing of the appeal.

She said the government would be continuing to emphasise the need to provide appropriate security to assure the men`s safety in the interim.

“We will be asking the Colombian authorities to expedite the hearing of the appeal so that this case can be concluded as quickly as possible,” she added.

Catriona Ruane, of the ‘Bring Them Home’ campaign, said it would be ridiculous if the men were not allowed to return home.

“The problem for us, the three men and the Irish government is that there is no safe place in Colombia for these men,” she said.

“It would be like the British government appealing the Birmingham Six case and then the Birmingham Six having to stay in England until the appeal was completed.”

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