Court in Lithuania Real IRA arms case hears spy tapes

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Prosecutors on Thursday played intelligence material to a Lithuanian court trying an Irishman charged with plotting to smuggle arms to Irish paramilitary group the Real IRA, a lawyer said.

"We continued to listen to audio recordings that prosecutors presented as conversations between my client Michael Campbell and secret agents," defence attorney Ingrida Botyriene told AFP.

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

He rejects 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.

The court, which is trying Campbell behind closed doors, last month wrapped up hearing testimony from prosecution witnesses including Lithuanian and British intelligence agents.

In a hearing last week, prosecutors began presenting audio and video surveillance material.

"The process is moving slowly and I guess it will take at least four more hearings to listen to the recordings," Botyriene said.

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 with, 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 broke with the Provisional IRA -- once the main 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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