[Sinn Fein]

4th April 2003

SF welcomes Ministers comments on Colombia Three but calls on Gov to demand their immediate release

Sinn Fein TD Seán Crowe has welcomed last night's statement from the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs that acknowledges the serious concerns that exist in relation to the continued detention of the three Irish men in Colombia. He specifically welcomed the fact that the Government has raised the issue of the prejudicial comments made about the men since their arrest with the Colombian authorities.

Deputy Crowe said: "I would like to first of all welcome the fact that the Department of Foreign Affairs has been following the case closely and that their desire is to see that the men get a fair trial. I would also like to welcome the Departments acknowledgment of the serious concerns that exist in relation to the plight of the three men in Colombia and the fact that they have been the subject of seriously prejudicial comments from the heart of the Colombian political and military establishment.

"Since these men were arrested the Attorney General in Colombia has said these men are guilty. A former President of the country, Mr Pastrana has said they are guilty. The current President Mr Uribe has said they are guilty. The head of the armed forces has said the men are guilty. And only last week Colombian General Moro and a number of parliamentarians said the men were guilty.

"I will be visiting Colombia for the third time next week. Since I first attended the trial some months ago not one shred of credible evidence has been produced against these men. They are being held in appalling and dangerous conditions.

"It is clear from the Ministers comments that the Government believes that the men's trial has been prejudiced. As a consequence I would ask the Government to demand the immediate release of the three men as it is very obvious that they can not and will not be given a fair trial in Colombia - no matter what assurances they are given by the Authorities there."

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