Dan Connolly, the brother of one of the Colombian Three, describes a recent visit to the men in Dijin holding centre, Bogota When I first heard of my brother Niall’s arrest on August 11, I was at work. A glance at a photograph on the front page of a newspaper was to dramatically change how my family and I lived our lives. A few weeks later, on September 13, – in the company of Peter Madden, a solicitor, and Caitriona Ruane, who came as our translator – I was on the tarmac of Bogota Airport meeting Karl Gardner, a representative of the Irish Embassy in Mexico. The purpose of our visit was to assess and improve the conditions the men are in and to set up a legal team to represent them in a case that is highly charged on both sides of the Atlantic. I went on the first visit alone, as Peter and Caitriona were meeting lawyers. I had plenty of letters from home, warm jumpers, papers, books, art materials and cigarettes. Emotions were high, not only at seeing Niall, but also at first meeting Martin and Jim, knowing that I was carrying the good wishes of their families as well as of my own. Conditions for the visit were sub-standard in that we were in a corridor surrounded by armed guards who still had not left in the bulk of the items I had brought. The morale of the men was incredibly high. As could be expected, they were preoccupied with how their case was going and their isolation and disorientation was evident. The September 15 visit was in the open air, along with the families of the 40 or so ‘extraditables’ who are in the Dijin holding centre with the three Irish men. We managed to see the cells as we left. While the men were in high spirits as we left, we were in a state of shock. The three men are locked up for 23 hours a day in cells which are about 5ft wide by 6ft long if that. There is no natural light in the cells and light for their cells comes from a fluorescent bulb about four foot away from them. Two men, Martin and Niall share one cell while Jim is in the adjoining cell. They are isolated from the other prisoners and just meet them at visiting times or during the hour-long walk in the fresh air. They are allowed out of their cells to eat at a table in the corridor, but they eat alone. They only get one 10-minute phone call every second day. The men have kept their morale up against terrific odds, they are learning Irish, practising Spanish and doing as much physical exercise as they can in the cramped conditions. Dijin is a national police holding centre, a temporary stop, and their continued detention there is inhumane in my view. The paradox is that there is no safe prison in Colombia. We have left it to the lawyers to assess as to whether the men can be moved to a prison where they could have basic human rights such as free association and to take them out of, what to me as a lay person, to all intents is an animal cage with toilets, albeit a clean animal cage. Our last visit to the men came about after serious pressure from the Irish Embassy in Mexico. When we were planning our Wednesday visit we said to one another that we would go in upbeat and leave on a high – I think the lads inside did the same. We brought in chicken and chips and had a good laugh, for three solid hours. I got to talk to Niall as well for the first time on our own and I filled him in on all the family news, which is no mean task, given that there are nine brothers and five sisters and all the various offshoots. They were particularly happy that Christy Moore, who they all love and respect, played a gig on their behalf two nights earlier in Dublin. I left Bogota, a city that bears the marks of prolonged and bitter division, the next day with a heavy heart for those I had left behind.