Irina Malenko: “The Colombian Trio”. To be an Irishman means to be guilty?

...They are being kept in cages, like animals, and they have even to sleep in turns because of lack of vacant places, though they are lucky, for in other similar cells, 27 people could be kept!.. These lines from Irish ballad “People behind Barbed Wire” come to mind while speaking about the “Colombian Trio," three Irishmen arrested in the middle of August in Bogota, who were at once sentenced by Western mass media and blamed of all possible sins: of supporting FARC terrorists connected with drug trade and so on…

Whatever fantastic stories were told in British rags about Neil Connolly, Martin McColey, and Jim Manahan! They were arrested in Bogota, on August 11, while returning from the demilitarized zone in the south of Colombia, open for journalists and public figures and headed by FARC.

Recently, the Colombian Trio were moved to a cell in the police station in the center of Bogota after they were kept in one of the most dangerous prisons in Latin America, in Modelo, where murders of prisoners are usual. There, militarized prisoners tried to throw a bottle with a gas mixture into their cell, while food for the Irish prisoners has to be prepared outside of the prison, as they could be easily poisoned there. In Ireland, a campaign was launched for releasing the Colombian Trio that has not been officially accused yet: at the moment, they are being kept in a prison in the Latin-American country waiting for investigation of their case, while, according to Colombian legislation, such detention could last up to 8 months. Families of the arrested Irishmen launched a campaign under title “Return them Home!” The organizers of the campaign say the following: “From the very beginning of the arrest, our beloved ones were kept in such conditions that obviously violate human rights. For the first three weeks, they were kept in a four-square-meter cell without fresh air and without any possibility for physical exercise. At the moment, they are again locked up 23 out of 24 hours, with a very limited possibility to receive visitors. Their current cell is even darker and smaller than their former one. Taking into account the publicity given to this case in Colombia, Ireland, and Great Britain just after their arrest and the serious accusations, though not supported, presented by the mass media and different politicians, it becomes understandable why their relatives do not believe they will be justly tried in Colombia. According to their lawyers, the so-called pieces of evidence against the Colombian Trio could not be considered in any normal court of the world. These “proofs” presented by military are mostly trumped-up. The Colombian military admitted themselves that the transaction process had been violated. We are worried about the lives of Neil, Jim, and Martin. Their lives in Colombia are in everyday danger. There is practically no safe prison in this country, which is confirmed by numerous reports about human rights in Colombia prepared by different international organizations. The main aim of our campaign is the immediate release and return of the Colombian Trio to Ireland. The campaign organized by the families is being supported by legal organizations, political parties, and individual citizens worried about fates of Neil, Jim, and Martin. We appeal to the Irish government, the European Union, Irish political parties, legal and religious groups ,and people of all political and religious positions, including apolitical people and atheists, to support the demand for immediate release of the three Irishmen arrested in Colombia."

Who are they, the members of the Colombian Trio, described by the gutter press as “dangerous militants?"

The 36-year-old Dubliner Neil Connolly spent 15 years in Latin America, 5 of them in Cuba, where his Cuban wife and two children live. Once, Neil took part in projects financed by the Irish government for the resettlement of people suffering in political conflicts in Nicaragua and Salvador. In Cuba, Neil supported the Irish trade union and cultural and political organizations visiting the Island of Freedom. At the beginning of this year, he helped Irish TV to prepare a report about the health system in Cuba. He is accused by the right-wing press of being political representative of Sinn Fein in Cuba, while he never has been a member of this party.

Martin Macoley, 39 years old, comes from Lurgan, Northern Ireland, and is a mechanical engineer. In 1982, being 19 years old, he was wounded in under suspicious circumstances by workers of the British special services. His friend Michel was killed. Later, British policeman John Stalker who investigated this case had to stop his investigation, because it was suppressed by British special services. Martin was the only person who survived in 1982, when British tactic of firing on every suspect was used. Because of his wounds, Martin could not continue his career as a mechanical engineer and created transport devices for disabled persons. He could not feel secure in Northern Ireland, so he and his wife had to emigrate to South Ireland.

Jim Manahan is the oldest member of the Colombian Three. He was born in Donegal County. A qualified engineer, he devoted the biggest part of his life to radical republican policy. Jim was twice imprisoned for his political activity. After being released in 1985, he continued his political education and even was Sinn Fein leadership’s member in early stage of the peaceful process. Afterwards, Jim left party activity, though he remained a supporter of the peaceful process: he issued a political magazine, worked in an organization for former political prisoners in Dublin while occupying himself with different political projects.

In the recent congress of Sinn Fein in Dublin, the famous politician Jerry Kelly declared his support of the campaign "Return Them Home!” He stressed the Colombian Three had been demonized by mass media in spite of lack of formal accusation. According to Jerry Kelly, all the three are republicans, supporting the peace process, and they explained reasons why they were in this country. In the mass media, there is still too much misinformation with the only purpose: to attack Sinn Fein and to undermine the peace process.

Irina Malenko PRAVDA.Ru Northern Ireland

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