Suspect in Lithuania Real IRA trial claims British set-up

16th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

An Irishman charged with plotting to smuggle arms from Lithuania to dissident Irish paramilitary group the Real IRA claimed Friday he was set up by British intelligence agency MI5.

"Everything was provoked by them," Michael Campbell, 39, told AFP during a break in a court hearing.

Dressed in jeans and a grey shirt, Campbell looked calm as his lawyer summed up his defence, claiming British and Lithuanian secret agents ensnared her client, and highlighted alleged flaws in their testimonies.

"The crimes he is charged with were manufactured by MI5 and put in place together with Lithuania's state security department," the lawyer, Ingrida Botyriene, told the court.

"We ask for his acquittal," she said.

Prosecutors are seeking a 16-year jail term for attempted smuggling, supporting a terrorist group and illegal possession of weapons.

Campbell does not deny purchasing weapons but says he was sucked in by Robert Jardine -- identified as a British agent and a smuggler -- who has already given evidence.

He rejects links with Real Irish Republican Army, led by his elder brother Liam. The latter is also wanted in Lithuania and is battling extradition from Northern Ireland.

"Jardine created the plan for when and where to go to Lithuania. It was Jardine's idea to present Campbell as a Real IRA member," Botyriene told the court.

She said Campbell received "active encouragement" of undercover British and Lithuanian agents.

Prosecutor Gedgaudas Norkunas dismissed the claim, saying recordings confirm Campbell discussed the plan with another suspect who is also wanted in Lithuania, without Jardine present.

Prosecutors allege that in 2007 Campbell inspected a 10,000 euro (14,000 dollar) haul in Lithuania including explosives and rocket-propelled grenades.

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. A verdict is expected this year.

The Real IRA broke with the Provisional IRA -- once the main armed group opposed to British rule in Northern Ireland -- in 1997 over the latters support for a peace deal with London.

© 2011 AFP

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