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Monday, 22 October, 2001, 21:19 GMT 22:19 UK
SF link to Colombia arrest man
Niall Connolly James Monaghan and Martin McCauley
The men could face 16 years in jail if convicted
One of three Irishmen detained in Colombia was Sinn Fein's representative in Cuba, the party's president Gerry Adams has admitted.

Mr Adams said on Monday that Niall Connolly's appointment was made without his knowledge or the authorisation of the international department of his party.

The revelation comes at a critical stage in the Northern Ireland political process.

Speculation is mounting that there could be a breakthrough in the arms impasse which has deadlocked the peace process.

It comes against the backdrop of the power-sharing executive looking set to collapse after unionists ministers resigned over the absence of IRA decommissioning.

Arrested

Niall Connolly was one of three republicans arrested in Bogota in August on suspicion of training member's of the left-wing FARC militia and for travelling on false passports.

The others are Martin McCauley and James Monaghan.

Mr Adams said while his party had denied claims by the Cuban authorities that Mr Connolly was their representative, an internal investigation revealed "one of our senior members asked Niall Connolly to represent the party in Cuba".

'Proper procedures'

"This decision was taken without the knowledge or authorisation of the international department or any other party structure including the party chairperson or myself."

Two of the men are from the Republic of Ireland and one is from Northern Ireland.

The West Belfast MP said proper procedures had not been employed in the appointment of Mr Connolly.

He said they had been reviewed to ensure that this "unfortunate situation" did not arise again.

The Colombian Attorney General, Luis Camilo Osorio, said: "This enhances the investigation and confirms many of the investigations that have already taken place."

The arrest of the trio led to calls for Sinn Fein to be excluded from the Northern Ireland Assembly.

See also:

23 Aug 01 | Americas
US warning on IRA suspects
17 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
Who are IRA suspects?
22 Aug 01 | Americas
'IRA' men in notorious prison
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