Court hears spy recordings in Lithuania Real IRA arms trial

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A Lithuanian court Monday heard intelligence agency recordings in the closed-door trial of an Irishman accused of plotting to smuggle arms to Irish paramilitary group the Real IRA, a lawyer said.

Defence attorney Ingrida Botyriene told AFP that recordings presented by prosecutors included conversations between defendant Michael Campbell and witnesses whose identity could not be made public on security grounds.

"We listened to audio recordings that prosecutors said were between the defendant and classified witnesses, but the quality was not good," Botyriene said.

Prosecutors also presented video recordings, she added.

Campbell, 38, was arrested in a January 2008 sting in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius and went on trial in August 2009.

He denies the charges of attempted weapons smuggling, illegal firearms possession and seeking to aid a terrorist organisation, saying he was set up. He faces a 20-year sentence if convicted.

Last week, the court wrapped up hearing testimony from prosecution witnesses, including Lithuanian and British intelligence agents who have given evidence behind closed doors on the orders of the judge.

There have only been a handful of hearings, the last of which was on September 30.

Botyriene said that given the small number of recordings played at Monday's hearing, she expected several more to be scheduled.

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

Botyriene has repeatedly said her client's family background is irrelevant, and that he has never been charged, let alone convicted, of membership of an illegal organisation.

Liam Campbell is wanted in the Lithuania case. Detained in May 2009 in Northern Ireland on a Lithuanian warrant, he is battling extradition.

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

© 2010 AFP

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