- The Washington Times - Friday, December 27, 2002

The trial of three members of the Irish Republican Army accused of training Marxist rebels in Colombia has been delayed until February, when the government's key prosecution witnesses will be brought to court under heavy guard, authorities said yesterday.
James Monaghan, Niall Connolly and Martin McCauley have been held without bail by Colombian authorities since their August 2001 arrest. They had been scheduled for trial this month, but it was postponed when two witnesses, both former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels, told authorities they were afraid to testify.
The witnesses, Edwin Guiovanni Rodriguez and John Alexander Rodriguez, have since been guaranteed that they will be brought to the Bogota, Colombia, courthouse under heavy security precautions. The case is being heard by Judge Jairo Acosta, who is sitting without a jury.
Mr. Guiovanni Rodriguez is in a Colombian jail three hours from Bogota. The other witness was released recently from a government resettlement-and-rehabilitation program, and his whereabouts are uncertain. Colombian prosecutor Carlos Sanchez told the court that Mr. Guiovanni Rodriguez had been the target of several assassination attempts.
The trial will begin Feb. 5.
The three IRA members have pleaded not guilty, saying that they were in Colombia as eco-tourists and to share experiences of peacemaking. They have declined to leave the high-security prison where they are being held to attend the trial, charging that the proceedings are biased against them.
A recent British intelligence report said the IRA, despite steadfastly denying involvement with Marxist rebels in Colombia, was using the South American country as a training ground to "carry out tests with their engineering department as they are no longer able to use the Irish Republic due to the current political climate."
The report said that the organization's involvement in Colombia allowed the IRA "free range to explore the new prototype of devices."
Mr. Monaghan, 55, led the IRA's engineering department and has been identified by British authorities as the designer of the sophisticated Mark 1B long-range mortar known as the "barracks buster." He is a former member of the Sinn Fein Executive Council. The Northern Ireland-based party represents the political wing of the IRA. Mr. Monaghan was convicted in 1971 of possession of explosives and served three years in prison.
Mr. McCauley, 38, is the former second-in-command of the IRA's engineering department. He is an expert in using and producing weapons and mortars, and served two years in prison after his 1985 conviction for the illegal possession of weapons.
Mr. Connolly, 36, also is a weapons expert and is believed to have first made contact with the FARC five years ago through ETA, the Basque terrorist group that specializes in bombings and assassinations of Spanish government officials.
FARC members are believed by U.S. authorities to have met more than a dozen IRA leaders during the past three years, including a confidant of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams. Colombian military and police officials, British intelligence officers and U.S. House investigators said the meetings were part of a FARC effort to upgrade its weaponry and escalate its ability to wage urban terrorism.
Among the IRA leaders believed to have been at the meetings was Padraig Wilson, 44, a convicted bomber and former commander of IRA inmates at the Maze prison, near Belfast. Wilson, a longtime confidant of Mr. Adams, was freed in December 1999 after serving eight years of a 24-year sentence.
Mr. Adams has denied that the IRA is involved in training FARC guerrillas. He told the Irish Times "with certainty" that the three men arrested in Colombia did not represent Sinn Fein and that he did not authorize them to be in Colombia in connection with party activities.
In testimony before the House International Relations Committee, Gen. Fernando Tapias, chairman of Colombia's joint chiefs of staff, attributed an "onslaught of terrorist acts" during the past 18 months to IRA training.
Gen. Tapias, who said recent bombings in his country have killed 400 police and military officers, told the committee that he did not know whether the IRA members were in Colombia at the order of the organization's leadership, but that there was no doubt they had trained the FARC in using explosives and other weapons.

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