Colombia coming to a head

Three men, believed to be intimately connected with the IRA, face the judge today in Colombia charged with giving aid to the leftist guerilla organisation FARC.

Apparent inconsistencies in two separate forensic tests will be at the heart of the three men’s defence.

Rosie Cowan outlines the evidence for and against:

Prosecution: evidence of explosives residue on the three men’s clothing; a Farc defector, the former driver of one of the Marxist guerrilla group’s leaders, says that the three were observed in the Farc area, where rebels were trained to use IRA-type mortar bombs

Defence: the men’s belongings were contaminated in a military compound before they were forensically tested; testimony from paid informers will have to be withdrawn; public comments from senior politicians and judicial figures have prejudiced the case.

The men’s lawyers are far from confident that they will get a fair trial.

David McKittrick lays out the consequences of conviction:

“…they face 15 or more years in jail, while back in Ireland, Sinn Fein and the IRA will be confronted by a new surge of pressure to explain just what republicans were doing in the company of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc). The most serious allegation is that while Sinn Fein talked peace in Belfast the IRA was hard at work an ocean away, using a remote jungle to test and develop fearsome new weapons to be ready for a future resumption of violence.”

John Reid addressing the Labour Party conference yesterday:

“We recognise and welcome the steps you have taken and we know how difficult it was for you. But if you want partnership with Unionists to be sustained, then you need to convince them, to reassure them. You cannot continue to ride two horses at once, especially if the two horses are as far apart as violence and democracy. The people of Northern Ireland are asking you now to have the courage of your democratic convictions. Complete your journey to democracy.”

More in The Scotsman the New York Times and Belfast Telegraph.