'Colombia Three' trial adjourned until June


After four days of marathon hearings in Bogota, the trial of three Irishmen accused of training Colombia's FARC guerrillas was adjourned until June.

Judge Jairo Acosta gave the defence and prosecution lawyers until April 24th to question the results of detailed tests to be carried out in the coming weeks on three videos which were provided by Mr Mike Ritchie.

Mr Ritchie, the director of Coiste na nIarchimí, a support group for republican ex-prisoners and their families, was the final witness to take the stand in last week's sixth phase of the trial.

He said that as a former employer of Mr Jim Monaghan, one of the defendants, he knew Mr Monaghan was in Ireland at a critical date. Colombian authorities allege he was at that time schooling the FARC in weapons technology and bomb-making along with his co-defendants, Mr Martin McCauley and Mr Niall Connolly.

The videos given to the court by Mr Ritchie show Mr Monaghan attending public speaking and peace-building seminars in Dublin and Belfast on February 7th, 21st and 22nd, 2001. The prosecution says he was in Colombia's southern jungles on those dates.

In one video, he introduces a talk on Colombia to a group of people in Dublin and mentions his interest in the faltering peace process there.

Judge Acosta ordered a technical examination of the videotapes after the prosecuting lawyer, Mr Carlos Sánchez, said the date and time codes on each video had been altered. The prosecution and defence will have until April 24th to question the findings.

Last week a total of four witnesses for the defence testified at the hearings. All were alibi witnesses for the three men, who have been held in Colombian detention centres and maximum security prisons since their arrest on August 11th, 2001. They were detained at Bogota airport as they tried to leave the country.