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Family of man killed in Bolivia voice fears over US support in fight for justice

The family of an Irish man sh ot dead by Bolivian special forces are concerned US President Donald Trump's administration will not support one of their only avenues for justice.

Michael Dwyer, 24, from Brocka, Ballinderry, Co Tipperary, was unarmed when he was killed in April 2009 in a hotel in Santa Cruz, in what his mother Caroline branded a "summary execution".

In the wake of the killing Bolivian authorities claimed the construction graduate and security worker was part of an alleged assassination plot targeting President Evo Morales.

Ms Dwyer travelled to the South American country in 2014 and 2016 to formally submit a complaint over her son's death as she campaigns for the Washington DC-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to order a court hearing on the killing.

She told the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs that only last night she received a copy of the Bolivian response to the commission and its claim that the family has not made a complaint.

"This was literally last night that I got this information. It's just, I suppose, what we have faced over the last eight years," she said.

"We've been there twice to make an official complaint and in a letter to the Inter-American Commission they've said they never received any complaint."

Bolivian authorities told the Dwyer family that they would only consider "other processes" over the killing once a trial over the alleged plot to assassinate president Morales is complete.

Ms Dwyer told the committee the trial has been ongoing for eight years and is expected to run for another three.

Marcelo Soza, the former Bolivian chief prosecutor who sought refugee status in Brazil following the killing, told the Dwyers that he believed Mr Dwyer was unarmed when killed and there was no evidence that he was knowingly involved in an assassination plot.

He was shot five times.

Eyewitness testimony from Hungarian Elod Toaso - who was with Mr Dwyer in the run-up to his death - has told a trial into his involvement in terrorism that the Irishman survived the raid in the Las Americas Hotel in Santa Cruz and was later seen alive at the city's international airport.

He claimed it was likely that Mr Dwyer was summarily executed at Viru Viru airport.

The United Nations has made the highest level of complaint it can to Bolivian authorities over the killing.

Catherine Heaney, a public relations specialist who has voluntarily supported the family, told the committee of concerns about funding from President Trump's administration for the Inter-American Commission, which states its mission is to "promote and protect human rights in the American hemisphere".

"Obviously there's a big fear now and the change of administration in the US, which is the biggest funder of the Inter-American Commission, that in fact that could be further eroded," she said.

T he committee was told that Bolivian government support was needed to move the case from the Inter American Commission to meet the family's demands for an independent, international, transparent inquiry.

The Dwyers have 30 days to reply to the Bolivian claim that no complaint has been made over the death.

There was also severe criticism at the committee over media reports of Mr Dwyer's killing.

Ms Dwyer said: "There's no doubt that Michael was summarily executed."

She added: "Since the day of Michael's death my family's objective has been to establish the truth.

"Large elements of the media in Ireland and internationally sullied his name.

"The information and the photographs released by the Bolivian authorities were not questioned."

Labour TD Alan Kelly also addressed the committee and called for it to send a delegation to Bolivia.

"Michael Dwyer was executed, murdered by a foreign government," he said.

"We have a situation where, near on eight years ago, a citizen of Ireland was taken out by the Bolivian government and executed.

"And by God we're going to have to do something about it."

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