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Last Updated: Monday, 8 August 2005, 19:22 GMT 20:22 UK
Colombia trio 'will serve term'
James Monaghan (left), Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly
The three Irishmen each received 17 year sentences
The Colombian government has said it will not let three on-the-run Irish republicans escape justice.

Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and James Monaghan were sentenced to 17 years in jail but vanished in December 2004 while on bail awaiting an appeal.

They returned to the Irish Republic last week.

Colombian vice-president Francisco Santos wants the men extradited but said he did not rule out allowing them to serve their sentences in Ireland.

"We would need to see if that is possible and if not possible, we think it would be important to look at ways of how they could be extradited to Colombia," he said.

"Obviously, there is still a long way to go in terms of the judicial process since there is no extradition in Ireland with Colombia, but I think where there is a political will there is a way and that is what we are expecting."

Meanwhile, the Irish ambassador to Mexico, who also covers Colombia, is to travel to Bogota to discuss the situation.

Gerry Adams
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said the men should stay

Arrangements are being made for Art Agnew to meet the authorities in Colombia, who have said they are determined the men serve their sentences.

Irish Premier Bertie Ahern, who has been under pressure from Opposition parties in the Republic of Ireland, has promised to consider any request from Colombia for assistance.

Writing in Monday's Irish Times newspaper, the taoiseach said the Irish government would "abide by its obligations" under international law.

However, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has said the three men should not be extradited.

He said their return had not damaged the political process and the men should be allowed to stay.

However, the SDLP's Alban Maginness said the men's return had "undermined the process of restoring the Good Friday Agreement".

Ulster Unionist assembly member Michael McGimpsey said their return could be part of a pre-agreed sequence of events.

Reverse appeal

DUP MEP Jim Allister said he intends to raise the case in Strasbourg next month. He wants the European Parliament and Commission to press Dublin about extradition.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said he hoped to travel to Colombia next month to develop links with victims groups there.

He said he also wants to show support to the Colombian authorities in their demand that the three men are returned.

The men, who had been accused of being IRA members, were arrested in Bogota in August 2001.

They were found guilty of travelling on false passports, in June 2004, but were acquitted of training Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) guerrillas.

That decision was reversed after an appeal by the Colombian attorney general and they were sentenced to 17-year terms.

A judge had ordered the men to remain in the country pending the outcome of the appeal.

An international arrest warrant was issued for them after they disappeared.

McCauley, 41, is from Lurgan in County Armagh, Monaghan, 58, is from County Donegal and Connolly, 38, is from Dublin.




BBC NEWS:VIDEO AND AUDIO
See the Irishmen wanted in Colombia




SEE ALSO:
Colombia trio 'create problems'
07 Aug 05 |  Northern Ireland
Colombia 3 'are back in Ireland'
05 Aug 05 |  Northern Ireland
New attack kills Colombia troops
03 Feb 05 |  Americas
Colombian sentences 'a travesty'
20 Dec 04 |  Northern Ireland
Hunt on for convicted Irishmen
17 Dec 04 |  Northern Ireland


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