Irishman gets 12 years for Lithuania Real IRA arms plot

21st October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Irishman Michael Campbell was on Friday sentenced to 12 years in prison by a Lithuanian court for attempting to smuggle arms from the Baltic state to paramilitary group the Real IRA.

"The court has decided to impose a sentence of 12 years," said trial judge Arunas Kisielius as he read out the verdict.

Campbell, 39, who had repeatedly insisted he was framed by British and Lithuanian intelligence, was convicted of attempted smuggling, attempting to aid a terrorist organisation and illegal possession of weapons.

"He committed the crime as part of a criminal group," Kisielius added.

Campbell appeared unfazed by the verdict, sitting calmly as he listened to his translator, and smiling as he talked to his defence lawyer.

Prosecutors had sought a 16-year sentence.

Campbell was arrested in January 2008 in Vilnius as he met a Lithuanian agent who posed as an arms dealer. On remand since then, he went on trial in August 2009.

Prosecutors charged that in 2007 Campbell first inspected a 10,000 euro (13,700 dollar) weapons haul in Lithuania, including explosives and rocket-propelled grenades.

During the trial, he did not deny purchasing arms but said he was drawn into a money-spinning scheme by prosecution witness Robert Jardine -- identified as a British agent and a smuggler.

He downplayed a wire-tapped conversation with another Irish suspect wanted by Lithuania, Brendan McGuigan, about planned attacks in London, saying they were joking, and that various recordings had been doctored.

Campbell also dismissed prosecution claims about the role allegedly played by his brother Liam, a senior Real Irish Republican Army commander wanted in Lithuania but fighting extradition from Northern Ireland.

Liam Campbell, 47, is one of the four leaders of the Real IRA found liable by a civil court for a 1998 bombing in Omagh, Northern Ireland, which killed 29 people.

Michael Campbell also rejected courtroom allegations by an Irish anti-terrorist officer that he was a Real IRA member, and said his family ties were irrelevant.

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

© 2011 AFP

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