Judge Questions “Colombia Three” Verdict
By Frank Shouldice, Contributor
June / July 2005
Although the whereabouts of the so-called `Colombia Three’ remain a mystery, a judge on the three-member appeal tribunal has publicly questioned the guilty verdict returned against them. The three Irishmen — Niall Connolly, James Monaghan and Martin McCauley (pictured above) — were accused of assisting FARC rebels in Colombia and passing on expertise gained from IRA bomb-making methods.
The three men were found not guilty at the initial hearing last April, but on appeal, they were found guilty by a majority opinion. They were sentenced to 17 years’ imprisonment for training FARC guerrillas and using false passports. However, the three men went into hiding before their heavy custodial sentence was handed down. They have not been seen since.
At a press conference in Bogota, defense lawyers for the Irishmen indicated that Magistrate Jorge Enrique Torres dissented strongly from the verdict. “I was overwhelmed by the countless amount of technical evidence used in this case that was questionable,” Torres reportedly stated. Despite the men’s disappearance, defence counsel intend to take the case to Colombia’s Supreme Court in an attempt to have the sentence overturned. The dissenting magistrate’s comments will be used as part of that appeal.
“Torres clearly points out that there was no certainty of guilt in the case,” claimed defense lawyer Pedro Mahecha, who alleges the two other judges came under outside pressure to return a conviction. “The ruling was completely politicized,” he said. ♦