Verdict on October 21 in Lithuania Real IRA case: judge

19th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

An Irishman who claims he was framed by Britain on charges of buying arms in Lithuania for paramilitary group the Real IRA will learn his fate next month, a Vilnius court ruled Monday.

"A verdict in this case will be announced on October 21," Vilnius district court judge Arunas Kisielius said at a final defence hearing.

Michael Campbell, 39, reaffirmed that he is innocent of attempted smuggling, supporting a terrorist group and illegal possession of weapons.

"I am not guilty," he told the court.

Prosecutors are seeking a 16-year jail sentence.

Campbell and his lawyers claim that he was set up by British and Lithuanian intelligence.

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

He does not deny purchasing arms but says he was drawn into a money-spinning scheme by prosecution witness Robert Jardine -- identified as a British agent and a smuggler.

"During my entire stay in Lithuania, when I was recorded 24 hours a day, the prosecutor did not even get one recording where I was talking with anybody about terrorist acts," Campbell said.

He downplayed a recorded conversation with another Irish suspect, Brendan McGuigan, about attacks in London, saying they were joking.

"To make a big story about a joke is really unfair," he said.

He also said the recordings were doctored.

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.

He rejects prosecution claims about the role allegedly played by his elder brother Liam, a senior Real Irish Republican Army commander wanted in Lithuania.

"At no point has the prosecutor offered any evidence to back that," Campbell said, standing close to his translator and surrounded by police officers.

He earlier rejected courtroom claims by an Irish anti-terrorist officer that he is a Real IRA member, and said his family ties are 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 latters support for peace with London.

© 2011 AFP

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