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Thursday, 28 November, 2002, 10:01 GMT
Hill attending Colombia 'IRA trial'
Niall Connolly, James Monaghan and Martin McCauley in La Modelo prison
Men's supporters are concerned about their safety
A prominent campaigner against miscarriages of justice is travelling to Colombia to monitor the trial of three IRA suspects accused of training guerrillas in terrorism.

Supporters of James Monaghan, Niall Connolly and Martin McCauley have expressed concern about the conditions they are being held under and that they may not receive a fair trial.

They are facing charges of training Marxist guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the FARC, in explosives and urban terrorism.

So far they have refused to leave their cells to attend the preliminary proceedings of their trial.

The men - one from Northern Ireland and two from the Irish Republic - were arrested in Bogota in August last year for travelling on false passports.

Paul Hill is concerned about the men in prison
Paul Hill is concerned about the men in prison

Paul Hill from west Belfast, who had his conviction for the IRA Guildford pub bombing overturned after spending 15 years in prison, has worked for the human rights campaign group Amnesty International.

He told BBC Radio Ulster he was concerned Amnesty did not plan to attend the trial of the three Irishmen which begins next week.

"I will be going into the prison to meet them and I will be meeting their defence team," he said.

"As Amnesty said, they can't send an observer to every single trial. But I am disappointed because I think people have been got at since September 11 and there is a whole different atmosphere about these trials."

'Conditions'

Mr Hill said he was particularly concerned about the men because he had compiled a report on prison conditions in Central America while working for Amnesty.

"I am fearful for their safety. There was a gun battle in the prison they were in last year in which 13 people were killed and four prisoners have gone missing from the prison that they are currently in," he said.


If I went there and there was a fair trial and the evidence against them was substantial, I would say so, I would leave

Paul Hill

He added: "It is clear the Colombian justice system is not entirely fair. The president of the country has already found them guilty and I think it would be hard for a judge to overrule that.

"I don't know why they were in the country and I know they were travelling under false documentation, but many thousands of people travel throughout the world every day for various reasons on false documentation."

Mr Hill said his main concern was that the men should be given a fair trial.

"If I went there and there was a fair trial and the evidence against them was substantial I would say so, I would leave," he said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Paul Hill tells BBC Radio Ulster's Seamus McKee:
"The president of the country has already found him guilty and I think it would be hard for a judge to overrule that"

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23 Aug 01 | Americas
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