Irishman appeals jailing in Lithuania Real IRA arms plot

2nd December 2011, Comments 0 comments

An Irishman sentenced in October to 12 years in a Lithuanian prison for attempting to smuggle arms to paramilitary group the Real IRA has appealed the verdict, his lawyer said Friday.

"Today Michael Campbell's appeal was handed to the court," Ingrida Botyriene told AFP. "Campbell asked the court to quash his conviction and acquit him. He maintains his position that he was set up."

Prosecutor Gedgaudas Norkunas said earlier he had also appealed the October 21 sentence because it fell short of the 16-year term he had sought.

No date has been set for the appeal hearing.

Campbell, 39, was convicted of attempted smuggling, aiding a terrorist organisation and illegal possession of arms.

He was arrested in January 2008 in Vilnius as he met a Lithuanian agent who posed as an arms dealer and went on trial in August 2009.

He repeatedly insisted he was innocent and had been framed by British and Lithuanian intelligence.

When the court sentenced him, it said it shaved four years off the term sought by the prosecution because the plot did not bear fruit and the security services were involved.

Campbell did not deny seeking to purchase arms but declined to reveal for whom, although he insisted they were not for the Real Irish Republican Army.

He said he was drawn into a money-making scheme by prosecution witness Robert Jardine -- identified in court as a British agent and a smuggler.

Campbell, a convicted cigarette smuggler, claimed Jardine convinced him to say he was from the Real IRA to impress the supposed Lithuanian arms dealers.

He dismissed any role of his brother Liam, a Real IRA commander.

Campbell said his family ties were irrelevant and denied being a member of the Real IRA.

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

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

© 2011 AFP

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