[Sinn Fein]

10th February 2003

Trial of three Irishmen in Colombia descends into complete farce

Sinn Fein TD Seán Crowe speaking on his departure from Colombia, where he has been attending the trial of three Irishmen, as part of a team of international observers, has described the trial process as a sham and said there is no possibility of the three men getting a fair trial. He further described comments from Fiona O'Malley over the weekend as ill informed, petty and vindictive. Deputy Crowe said:

``We are now at a very critical stage in the trial but instead of matters improving the process has become a complete sham. Political interference in the trial has continued unabated and this week speaking in Newsweek Colombian President Uriba has put the final nail in the coffin when he said that the men are guilty. This is a complete violation of the presumption of innocent until proven guilty and gross political interference in an already contaminated process.

"I have now attended two sessions of this trial as part of an international team of observers and I firmly believe that there is absolutely no possibility of Jim Monaghan, Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly getting a fair trial. And as time goes on it is increasingly difficult for those attending the trial as observers, due to constant pressure and threats, both around the court and getting in and out of the country.

"We will be seeking an urgent meeting with Brian Cowen on our return to voice our deep concerns about this trial and to call on the government to urgently act for the rights for these three Irishmen and to secure their immediate release. This is a simply matter of justice which the government must vigorously pursue with the Colombia authorities."

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