British inspector meets Real IRA suspect held in Lithuania

28th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

A British prisons inspector has met with an Irishman on trial in Lithuania over an alleged arms smuggling scheme by dissident paramilitary group the Real IRA, a lawyer said Friday.

Defence attorney Ingrida Botyriene told AFP that the expert, Rod Morgan, had met with Michael Campbell in his Vilnius remand jail.

"He examined the place where he is being held. He had sufficient time to ask him all the questions he liked," Botyriene said.

Lawyers for Campbell -- arrested in a January 2008 sting in Vilnius -- have repeatedly protested his jail conditions.

They have complained about limited phone contacts with his wife, fellow inmates' drug-use, and that the cell lights are switched off due to Lithuania's austerity drive.

Lithuania's jails have been criticised in the past by international watchdogs.

Morgan, who advises the British government and the Council of Europe, is assessing 37-year-old Campbell's conditions as part of a related case in Northern Ireland.

Lithuanian authorities are seeking the extradition of Campbell's brother, Liam Campbell, 46, one of four leaders of the Real Irish Republican Army found liable in 2009 for an August 1998 bombing in the Northern Irish town of Omagh which killed 29 people.

Liam Campbell was detained in May 2009 in Northern Ireland on a Lithuanian warrant, but is fighting extradition.

Michael Campbell has been on trial since last August, charged with attempted weapons smuggling, illegal firearms possession and seeking to aid a terrorist organisation. He faces a 20-year sentence if convicted.

He has denied the charges, claiming he was set up.

British and Lithuanian agents involved in the case have been cross-examined behind closed doors on the judge's orders.

A Lithuanian agent gave evidence in a hearing Friday.

There have only been a handful of sessions, with three of the total 10 witnesses yet to testify.

"I don't think this will be over by the summer," said Botyriene.

The Real IRA split from the Provisional IRA -- once the main Catholic armed group opposed to British rule in Northern Ireland -- in 1997 over the latter's support for peace there.

© 2010 AFP

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