Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Ireland: Bolivia must explain its killings of trio

Bolivia is wrong to block other governments from finding out why their citizens were shot to death and branded mercenaries plotting to assassinate Bolivia's leaders, Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin said today.

Bolivian police last week gunned down three men — a Hungarian, a Romanian, and 25-year-old Mike Dwyer from Ireland — and accused them of arriving in the South American country on a mission to kill Bolivian President Evo Morales as well as Vice President Alvaro Garcia.

After leaders of Ireland, Hungary and Romania all appealed to Bolivia for evidence backing that allegation, Morales dismissed their concerns as illegitimate and accused them of supporting assassins. "How are they going to defend such people who came here to try to kill the president?" Morales said yesterday.

But Martin said Morales was not being reasonable or fair and appealed to Bolivian authorities to be more forthcoming with information. He cited evidence suggesting that the men had died in a one-sided ambush, not a 30-minute gun battle as described by Bolivia's police.

Martin said Ireland "has no sympathy for any action designed to destabilize Bolivia or threaten the security of its democratically elected president." He rejected Morales' claim that Ireland, and other concerned governments, were seeking to interfere in Bolivia's domestic politics.

"The Irish government has not the remotest desire of getting involved in the internal political situation in Bolivia. Our interest relates exclusively to the fact that an Irish citizen was killed by the Bolivian state security forces in particularly violent circumstances," Martin said.

Martin rejected Bolivian media reports identifying Dwyer as a former soldier in the Irish army, and noted he had no criminal record in Ireland. Dwyer's family said he worked only as a pub bouncer and a private security guard before travelling to Bolivia this month.

The foreign minister said Bolivia had serious questions to answer about the circumstances of the killings, particularly whether Dwyer and the others could have been arrested. Two others, a Hungarian and a Croat-Bolivian national, remain in Bolivian custody on suspicion of involvement in the alleged assassination conspiracy.

"The Irish government has a legitimate right to seek the facts of how one of its citizens came to be killed by the security forces of another state, particularly where prima facie (first-glance) evidence is sufficient to raise questions in relation to the description of events released by the Bolivian authorities," he said.

Martin declined to specify the evidence. Irish journalists in Bolivia have quoted officials at the hotel where the killings occurred as saying that all the gunshots were fired in a room where the three victims were staying, and that no lengthy gun battle occurred.

Martin also criticised Bolivian authorities for undiplomatic behavior, accusing them of identifying Dwyer publicly and circulating "gruesome newsreel of his dead body" before contacting Ireland's nearest embassy in the region, in Argentina.

Bolivia has agreed to return Dwyer's body, which is expected to arrive back in Ireland later this week.