Secret agent testifies in Lithuania Real IRA arms trial

23rd April 2010, Comments 0 comments

An anonymous witness believed to be a Lithuanian secret agent gave evidence Friday in the trial of an Irishman accused of trying to smuggle arms for the Real IRA, a defence lawyer said.

"Today we heard testimony from someone who was almost certainly a Lithuanian intelligence operative, although his name wasn't revealed," Ingrida Botyriene told AFP.

Agents involved in the January 2008 arrest of Michael Campbell have been cross-examined in secret on the orders of the judge.

Campbell, on trial since last August, faces charges of attempted weapons smuggling, illegal firearms possession and seeking to aid a terrorist organisation. He could be jailed for up to 20 years if convicted.

The 37-year-old was arrested in Vilnius in January 2008 while meeting a Lithuanian agent posing as a dealer. He denies the charges, claiming he was set up.

There have only been a handful of sessions, with closed-door testimony from British and Lithuanian agents.

Friday's witness is also due to attend the next scheduled hearing on May 17. The court still has to hear four of the total 10 witnesses.

"The hearings are set to continue until the end of June," Botyriene said.

Campbell is the brother of Liam Campbell, 46, one of four leaders of the Real Irish Republican Army militant group found liable in 2009 for an August 1998 bombing in the Northern Irish town of Omagh which killed 29 people.

Liam Campbell has been detained in Northern Ireland on a Lithuanian extradition warrant.

Botyriene said Michael Campbell's family ties were irrelevant and noted he had never been convicted, let alone charged, with membership of an illegal organisation.

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 moves.

The Omagh bombing failed to derail an April 1998 accord halting most of Northern Ireland's "Troubles", three decades of violence pitting Catholics against pro-British Protestants and British forces that killed at least 3,500 people.

The Real IRA returned to the spotlight in March 2009, claiming a shooting at a Northern Irish barracks which killed two British soldiers.

© 2010 AFP

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