Irishman faces retrial in Lithuania Real IRA arms case

26th June 2014, Comments 0 comments

Lithuania's Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the retrial of an Irishman acquitted of plotting to smuggle arms from the Baltic state to the Real IRA paramilitary group.

Michael Campbell was initially sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2011 for aiding a terrorist group and illegal possession of arms.

But an appeals court struck down the sentence in October last year, saying it could not rule out Campbell's claim that he was framed by British intelligence.

In the latest twist in the long-running case, a seven-judge panel said Thursday that the appeals court gave a "contradictory" assessment of intelligence witnesses.

"The panel decided to annul the verdict of October 2, 2013, and refer the case to an appeals court," judge Gintaras Goda said, reading the verdict.

The 41-year-old Campbell, who currently lives in Ireland, did not come to Vilnius for verdict.

His lawyers and prosecutor did not appear either, and they could not be immediately reached for a comment.

"The court of appeals groundlessly downgraded part of evidence and by giving priority to testimony of the acquitted person," prosecutor Gedgaudas Norkunas told the court in a hearing last month.

Campbell's lawyer Ingrida Botyriene rejected the prosecutor's arguments, telling the court that "provoked activity cannot be recognised as criminal".

Campbell went on trial in August 2009 after having been arrested in a January 2008 sting in Vilnius, where he met a Lithuanian agent posing as an arms dealer.

He denied being a member of the Real Irish Republican Army, which in 1997 broke with the Provisional IRA -- once the main armed group opposed to British rule in Northern Ireland -- over a peace deal.

Campbell's brother Liam was one of four Real IRA leaders found liable by a civil court for a 1998 bombing in Omagh, Northern Ireland that killed 29 people.

© 2014 AFP

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