Republicans held in Colombia 'are being denied a fair trial'

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The Independent Online

Three Irishmen who have been detained for six months by the authorities in Colombia on suspicion of training left-wing rebels are being denied a fair trial, their supporters claimed last night.

Campaigners supporting republicans James Monaghan, Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly, who were arrested in the South American country last August on charges of travelling on false passports and training Marxist Farc rebels, called on the Irish government and human rights organisations to demand their freedom.

Two days after prosecutors in Bogota, the Colombian capital, sent the case to a federal judge, Catriona Ruane of the Bring Them Home Campaign claimed the three had been denied "a fair legal process from the day and hour they were arrested". She said: "Their basic rights to defence have been denied. The investigation was closed before vital witnesses were interviewed.

"Among these witnesses were Irish parliamentarians from different political parties, professional people and former employers of the men. Human rights organisations have described the conditions in which they have been held as inhuman and degrading. They have been obstructed from preparing their defence by the manner in which they have been treated."

The three were arrested last August in the South American country. They claim they were there to study peace talks between Farc and the Colombian Government.

Carolina Sanchez from the Colombian Attorney General's Office said that, although no date has been set, the trial could begin within a month.