Lithuania acquits Irishman jailed for Real IRA arms plot
A Lithuanian appeals court on Wednesday overturned the conviction of an Irishman charged with plotting to smuggle arms from the Baltic state to the Real IRA paramilitary group, citing lack of evidence.
Vilnius (Lithuania): A Lithuanian appeals court on Wednesday overturned the conviction of an Irishman charged with plotting to smuggle arms from the Baltic state to the Real IRA paramilitary group, citing lack of evidence.
Michael Campbell was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2011, but has long insisted he was framed by British intelligence.
An appeals court judge in Vilnius today struck down the sentence, and said there was no evidence linking Campbell with the Real IRA.
"State institutions have not provided evidence that would rule out his (Campbell`s) claim that he was framed by MI5 agents", Judge Viktoras Kazys said, before ordering Campbell`s release from custody.
"It was impossible to comprehensively explore the case when British and Irish institutions refused to cooperate with Lithuanian courts and prosecutors," he said.
Lithuanian prosecutors however said Wednesday they would appeal the verdict with the Supreme Court.
After the ruling, a smiling Campbell told a news agency he planned "to go home" to Ireland, but refused further comment.
"The court defended the basic principle that the state cannot create a crime and then convict a person for it," his lawyer Ingrida Botyriene told a news agency.
Campbell was sentenced to 12 years behind bars by a district court in 2011 for attempted smuggling, aiding a terrorist group and illegal possession of arms.
But he appealed, arguing there was no evidence backing up the testimony of a main witness for the prosecution identified in court as a smuggler and British agent.
The 41-year-old Irishman has also long denied being a member of the Real IRA, a hardline splinter group of the IRA -- once the main armed group opposed to British rule in Northern Ireland.
His 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.
Michael Campbell was arrested in 2008 in Vilnius when he met a Lithuanian agent posing as an arms dealer.
Citing an intelligence service witness, prosecutors insisted Campbell enquired about explosives to blast a bullet-proof government car.
The Real Irish Republican Army broke with the Provisional IRA in 1997 over its support for a peace deal with London.