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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 December, 2004, 17:04 GMT
Irish trio sentenced in Colombia
James Monaghan (left), Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly
Arrest warrants have been issued for the three men
Three Irishmen initially acquitted of training Marxist rebels in Colombia have now been sentenced to 17 years following an appeal.

The prosecution successfully appealed the acquittal of Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and James Monaghan.

Arrest warrants have been issued for the three men, who have remained on bail in Colombia.

The three, who had been accused of being IRA members, were found guilty of travelling on false passports.

They were acquitted of the more serious offences by a lower court earlier this year, but the Colombian Attorney General has now successfully appealed against that decision.

Catriona Ruane of the Bring them Home campaign called on the Irish Government to intervene and would bring in international groups.

Sinn Fein's Catriona Ruane and Gerry Kelly were shocked at the verdict
This is a political decision and a blatant miscarriage of justice
Catriona Ruane
Bring them Home campaigner

"This is a political decision and a blatant miscarriage of justice," said the Sinn Fein assembly member.

She said it was "a terrible decision for their families and eight young children to get before Christmas".

A judge had ordered them to remain in the country pending an appeal by the prosecution against their not guilty verdict on training Farc guerillas.

The Colombian court system goes into recess on Friday, and the men's lawyers are expected to see them within the next day.

It is understood there is one final step in the legal process open to the men, an extraordinary appeal to the Supreme Court.

The earliest that any appeal can be lodged is mid-January.

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

The three had been detained at Bogota's El Dorado airport in August 2001 as they were about to board a flight out of the country.

Their arrest led to speculation that Irish republicans had formed links with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc).

The main charge against them was that they had been teaching the rebels the techniques of urban terrorism.

The Irishmen strenuously denied this, saying they were in the area to monitor the fledgling peace process as well as being eco-tourists.




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See footage of the three Irish men



SEE ALSO:
Q&A: The Colombia connection
16 Dec 04 |  Northern Ireland
Irishmen stay put in Bogota jail
29 Apr 04 |  Northern Ireland
Colombia accused address court
30 Jul 03 |  Northern Ireland
Diplomat testifies in Colombia
10 Apr 03 |  Northern Ireland
Colombia trial adjourned
18 Feb 03 |  Northern Ireland


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