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Saturday, 30 March, 2002, 10:03 GMT
Adams 'advised' not to attend US hearing
Niall Connolly, James Monaghan and Martin McCauley
The men could face eight years in jail if convicted
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has said he has been advised not to appear before a US congressional hearing investigating links between the IRA and Marxist guerrillas in Colombia.

The west Belfast MP said he received a letter of invitation from the House of Representatives International Relations Committee a week after it was published in a newspaper.

However, he has yet to decide whether to testify.

"I have been advised very strongly not to go," he told BBC Radio Ulster's Inside Politics programme on Saturday.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams: Undecided as to whether to attend hearing

"I have not made my mind up at this time and I have to say.... that it is not the most pressing issue in the middle of an election.

"It is not the most pressing issue on my mind at this time."

Last month, Colombian prosecutors formally charged three IRA suspects with teaching bomb-making to Marxist rebels, bringing the men's trial a significant step closer.

Prosecutors passed the case to a federal judge six months after the three men were arrested while leaving an area controlled by the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Invitation

The three, Jim Monaghan, Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly, face up to eight years in jail if convicted.

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

The invitation to Mr Adams was issued by Henry Hyde, who is the chairman of the US House of Representatives International Relations Committee.

Mr Hyde has asked Mr Adams to attend the hearing on 24 April.

The hearing is entitled: The IRA in Colombia - the Global Links of International Terrorism.


It is not the most pressing issue on my mind at this time

Gerry Adams Sinn Fein leader

In a reference to the arrest of the three Irish men in Colombia, Mr Hyde has asked the Sinn Fein president to make clear what his party leadership knew about the IRA's activities with "Colombia's narco-terrorists".

The congressman described the issue as a "serious matter which involved US national interests".

The three men in custody have denied the allegations, and bought advertising space in a newspaper in February to say they had been "framed as part of attempts to damage peace talks between the government and rebels".

Under Colombian law, the three men have the right to appeal against the prosecutor's charges. The judge decides if the case should go forward, and if so sets a trial date.

According to the prosecutor's report, witnesses have testified that they saw the three men in the Switzerland-sized zone in southern Colombia controlled by the FARC.

Technical evidence revealed traces of explosives on their clothes, the report said.

See also:

23 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Colombian 'IRA' witness disappears
22 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
SF link to Colombia arrest man
23 Aug 01 | Americas
US warning on IRA suspects
22 Aug 01 | Americas
'IRA' men in notorious prison
17 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
Who are IRA suspects?
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