The three Irishmen arrested in Colombia in August after getting of a plane from the demilitarised zone, remain in prison in Bogotá. Initially imprisoned in the Modelo, fears for their safety from paramilitary prisoners means that they have now been transfered to an installation of the DIJIN (special police), where they are held in near isolation.
They have been charged with offences related to the training of guerilla groups, but privately, officials admit that clear evidence only exists to support the fact that the three were travelling on false passports. This crime is usually punishable with deportation. Evidence to detain them on terrorist offences comes courtesy of the US embassy, whose tests on the mens’ clothing found traces of explosives and drugs.
The same tests carried out by the Colombian security police (DAS) and by the Institute of Legal Medicine both failed to find any incriminating evidence of this kind, but now the three defendents and their legal representation find themselves in the unenviable position of having to litigate against the US authorities. Why the US authorities are involved in the case at all remains unexplained, as does why the three men were followed to and all around Colombia by the SAS.
Following the arrests, the international press were very quick to announce that traces of explosives and drugs had been found on the defendants, and immediately assumed that the IRA had been involved in explosives training for the FARC in return for cocaine. This certainly fits in well with the US government’s view of various revolutionary and national liberation groups around the world, who they never tire of telling us are barely distinguishable from the drugs cartels (think Oliver North, Noriega and the Contras). This might well explain why the US are the only authorities able to find any evidence to support these theories and are willing to involve themselves in a criminal case in a foreign country, overriding the investigation of the traditional authorities. The British government too has made much political capital, with anti-communists in the US condemning their compatriots who provide funds for the IRA. Predictably, unionists in the north of Ireland have complained that the IRA have broken their ceaseire and continue to threaten to withdraw from the peace process.
It remains unclear if Martin John McCauley, David Bracken and James William Monaghan are current members of either Sinn Fein or the IRA. While the Sinn Fein leadership in Europe has denied current involvement with any of the three, an announcement from Cuba claimed that Monaghan was Sinn Fein’s official representative in Havana. It also remains unclear what they were doing in the demilitarised zone. If they had been on an explosives training or drug buying mission, it is unlikely that they would have flown to Caguan on an official Armed Forces flight as was the case. Surely entering the zone and even Colombia by land would be a much better bet for such a clandestine visit. As Manuel Marulanda pointed out, both the IRA and the FARC are currently involved in their own respective peace processes, but noone has accused the two groups of exchanging experiences and ideas on this topic.
Amidst all the conjecture and rumour, what is clear is that should the case come to trial, the US authorities will ensure that public hysteria and moral panic about perceived terrorism, already an active policy before the attacks in the USA, overshadows all the evidence. The evidence suggests that the defendants are innocent, and must be considered so until proven guilty. But as recent US policy shows, evidence of guilt is not always necessary when it comes to wars.