BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK: N Ireland  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 21:05 GMT 22:05 UK
IRA suspects refuse to attend court
Courtroom
The judge (left) outlined the case in court
Three alleged IRA men have again refused to appear in court in Colombia to face charges of training Marxist guerrillas in explosives and terrorism.

The judge outlined the case against the three men and a statement from them was handed into court.

It is not yet clear why they did not attend.

Jim Monaghan, Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly were arrested at Bogota's international airport in August 2001 and held in connection with having false documents.

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

They were due to appear in court in the Colombian capital, Bogota, on Wednesday - nearly two weeks after they refused to leave prison to attend a similar hearing.

But they again said they would not attend the hearing.


The men have said they are very concerned they can't get a fair trial and the lawyers have said publicly it is virtually impossible for them to get a fair trial

Campaigner Catriona Ruane

Catriona Ruane, who is leading a campaign for the men to be sent home, said they told her on Tuesday they would not be attending the court.

Speaking to the BBC from Bogota she said: "The three Irishmen have informed their judge that they won't be going to court today.

"There will be a statement read out in court by their lawyers in court later which will explain their reasons."

The men's lawyers said two weeks ago there was no chance of them getting a fair trial because of what has been said publicly about them by senior Colombian officials.

'Prejudicial statements'

Ms Ruane said: "The men have said they are very concerned they can't get a fair trial and the lawyers have said publicly it is virtually impossible for them to get a fair trial.

"The ex-president of Colombia, the current president of Colombia and the current attorney general have all made extremely prejudicial statements.

"We have also had the US congressional hearing transcript printed word for word here and we've had generals in the army already convicting the men."

In the defendants' absence at the last hearing, the prosecution went ahead and outlined its case.

Denials

The case has led to heightened tensions in the Northern Ireland political process.

Unionists have accused republicans of developing new weapons in South America while participating in the Stormont Government, which has now been suspended.

Sinn Fein has denied this and insisted the IRA ceasefire is intact.

The IRA leadership has denied authorising any action in Colombia and the men have all denied links with the IRA or Colombian guerrillas.

The charges from the prosecutor-general's office state the three men "instructed guerrillas in the manufacture of bombs, detonation of explosive artefacts and the planning of terrorist attacks".

On 11 August 2001, three men identified by their passports as David Bracken, John Kelly and Edward Campbell were arrested as they stepped off a plane from San Vicente del Caguan.

At the time, the area was a government-declared "safe haven" controlled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Passport questions

The FARC is a Marxist guerrilla army that has been fighting the Columbian Government for 38 years.

It is believed the Colombian authorities had intelligence that the passports were false and the men were suspected of being members of the Provisional IRA.

A document obtained from the Colombian prosecutor general's office, due to be presented at the trial, contains evidence that the luggage and clothing of the Irishmen were subjected to forensic tests. These allegedly revealed traces of narcotics and explosives.

There is also a series of witness statements that allege sightings of the three men in the FARC guerrilla zone, not just in 2001 but as far back as 1998.

The authorities are also said to have a "star witness" - a guerrilla deserter, known only as Alexander. He is expected to allege the Irishmen trained him in handling explosives.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC'S Jeremy McDermott
"They will stand trial"
BBC NI's Mervyn Jess
"It wasn't a great surprise given that the men didn't appear at the first hearing"
Catriona Ruane, Bring them home campaigner
"Extremely prejudicial statements have been made about the three men"
See also:

04 Oct 02 | N Ireland
23 Apr 02 | N Ireland
23 Apr 02 | N Ireland
20 Apr 02 | N Ireland
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more N Ireland stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more N Ireland stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes