Colombia 3 lawyers to visit the men’s families

COLOMBIAN lawyers linked to the campaign to repatriate the ‘Colombia Three’ are to visit the men’s families in Ireland. And the three suspected IRA men – accused of training FARC guerrillas – have been transferred to another jail, it has emerged. Caitriona Ruane of the “Bring Them Home” campaign, which is attempting to get the three sent back to Ireland, said the lawyers will also be requesting a meeting with the Irish government. Ms Ruane said the visit has been made necessary because the Colombian government has placed visa restrictions on Irish visitors entering the country. Ms Ruane said the lawyers – Jose Luis Velasco, Pedro Maecha and Augustin Jimenez – are “courageous committed people”. She said: “We appreciate them taking the time to come here. It’s very brave of them because 25 defence lawyers have been killed in Colombia since 1998 alone. “Most of their time here will be spent with the legal team and with the families. They will also be meeting human rights groups.” The former director of the Belfast Feile an Phobail director told the Irish News the lawyers are planning to be in Ireland by the end of next week. Meanwhile, republicans Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and James Monaghan have been moved to La Picoga jail in Bogota. Since their arrest in the FARC controlled zone on August 11 campaigners have claimed the men could be in danger from right-wing prisoners. The three had been held in a police compound after being moved from Bogota’s notorious Modelo jail where riots and killings are routine. Ms Ruane said: “It’s not the prison we would have wanted them moved to but at least they are getting some fresh air. “It was getting to the stage in Modelo jail where it was becoming a nightmare with the men locked up for 23 hours a day.” The Colombian military alleges the three were training members of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The men have denied the allegation but admit they were travelling on false passports. McCauley, (39) originally from Lurgan, was wounded in an attack on a hay-shed in 1982 by RUC officers. The father-of-three, Sinn Fein director of elections in Upper Bann during the 1996 Forum election, was the only survivor of the alleged shoot-to-kill operation. Fluent Spanish speaker, Connolly, (36) from Dublin, “facilitated visits by Sinn Fein delegations to Cuba,” according to the campaign but has “never been a member of any political party”. Monaghan, originally from Donegal, is a former member of Sinn Fein Ard Comhairle. In July 1976 he made a spectacular escape from Dublin Special Criminal Court with three other IRA suspects after a double bomb blast caused chaos. Ms Ruane recently returned from a seven-day visit to South America after which she launched the “human rights” campaign which aims to get the men released. On the trip to Colombia with Ms Ruane was Peter Madden of Madden and Finucane solicitors and Dan Connolly, a brother of 36-year-old Niall Connolly from Dublin.