Sinn Fein Leader Won't Testify about Alleged IRA-Colombia Links

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:11 PM EDT

( - Gerry Adams, the head of Sinn Fein, a group widely described as the IRA's political wing, has turned down a request to testify Wednesday before the House International Relations Committee. The committee is investigating possible links between the Irish Republican Army and Colombian rebels.

Adams told reporters in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Tuesday he has offered to testify before the committee the next time he is in Washington. He didn't say when that would be, however.

He said he declined Wednesday's invitation because his priorities were to "defend the (Irish) peace process, to defend Sinn Fein's essential contribution to it."

Adams also said he didn't want to appear because three Irishmen are being held in Colombia and he said his presence at the hearings "will be prejudicial to any possibility of a fair trial."

Martin McCauley, James Monaghan and Niall Connolly deny they were in Colombia to train terrorists. They say they were in the country only to study the peace talks between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government.

The three have denied any links to the IRA or the Colombian guerillas.

Adams refusal to testify angered Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.).

Hyde said the committee's invitation had been "an opportunity for Mr. Adams to offer some explanation about why two IRA explosives experts and a Sinn Fein political officer stationed in Cuba were arrested last August following a visit to a safe haven controlled by the Revolutionary Armed of Colombia, FARC, a designated terrorist organization."

"FARC and other narco-terrorist groups in Colombia are responsible for 90 percent of the cocaine and 70 percent of the heroin sold on America's streets," Hyde said. "Terrorism imperils Colombian democracy, and the alleged IRA role in helping groups like the FARC to perpetuate this violence poses a direct threat to US national interests."

In recent years, Sinn Fein has tried to distance itself from associations with terrorism and be seen as a peaceful organization.

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