[Sinn Fein]

3rd February 2003

Trial of three Irishmen in Colombia resumes on Wednesday

Sinn Fein TD Seán Crowe will this evening depart for Colombia where he will join an international delegation to observe the trial of three Irishmen which resumes on Wednesday 5th. Deputy Crowe said:

"Last December I spent seven days in Colombia observing the trial of three Irishmen - Jim Monaghan, Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly. From the first day of the trial it was obvious that the proceedings were descending into farce and the likelihood of the men getting a fair trial was quickly disappearing.

"Despite the time that has passed since then, matters have not improved and in many ways have become worse. Despite a call from the Judge that the three men remain in Bogota for the duration of the trial, they were moved, in the run up to Christmas, to a prison three hours from Bogota, where access is extremely hazardous.

"With the trial due to start on Wednesday we still don't know if the prosecution witnesses will appear and whether the defence lawyers will have the opportunity to question them. We don't know if the media will be allowed access to the trial. This is deeply concerning as the authorities are clearly trying to manage the flow of information coming from the trial due to the international concern voiced last December. This attempt to control access is worrying and is incredible particularly given the widespread prejudicial commentary from senior government and military in the run up to the trial.

"Given the farcical nature of proceedings to date there is no possibility that the men are going to receive a fair trial."

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