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Alleged IRA bomb trio are granted amnesty by Colombia

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Niall Connolly

Niall Connolly

Niall Connolly

The government of Colombia has granted an amnesty to three alleged IRA men who were associated with rebel terrorist army the FARC.

The three men - Niall Connolly, James Monaghan and Martin McCauley - became known as the Colombia Three.

The men were arrested at Bogota airport in 2001 while travelling on false passports.

They claimed to be on holiday, but it was alleged that they were training FARC guerillas in bomb-making methods.

The three men were initially cleared of the charges by a lower court, but the prosecution appealed.

Pending the appeal hearing - the three were granted bail - they left the tropical South American country before that appeal hearing could take place.

In their absence, the three men were sentenced to 17 years in prison.

In 2005, RTE revealed that they had secretly returned to Ireland.

Although they were interviewed by gardai, they were not returned to Colombia, as there is no extradition treaty between Ireland and the south American country.

Earlier this week, the Colombia Three were granted an amnesty as part of a peace deal between the Colombian Government and the FARC guerillas.

Sergio Guzman, director of think-tank Colombia Risk Analysis, told the Guardian newspaper that while the deal may undermine faith in the Colombian peace process, it was an important symbolic gesture.

"Many people are unconvinced that the tribunal will effectively deliver justice and for that matter punishment for to those responsible for atrocities during Colombia's conflict," said Guzman.

"But the tribunal's ruling does a lot for symbolism and restorative justice."

The violent conflict between the Colombian government and the FARC rebels ended with the signing of a peace accord in November 2016.

Belfast Telegraph