Campbell to appeal

DUNDALK man Michael Campbell has been sentenced to 12 years in jail by a court in Lithuania for trying to buy weapons for the Real IRA.

DUNDALK man Michael Campbell has been sentenced to 12 years in jail by a court in Lithuania for trying to buy weapons for the Real IRA.

The 39-year-old from Upper Faughart was sentenced on Friday morning last (October 21). Campbell admits travelling to the Baltic state to buy weapons, but claims he did not intend to use them to arm dissident republicans.

His arrest in Vilnius in 2008 and now his subsequent conviction are the culmination of a four-year operation by MI5 and authorities in Lithuania. Campbell insists he was a victim of entrapment and plans to appeal the case.

He claimed he had no connection to the Real IRA, and was entrapped by secret agents who initiated the arms deal and guided it at every stage.

Judge Arunas Kisielius found Campbell guilty of membership of a terrorist organisation, weapons smuggling, and trying to illegally buy arms including automatic rifles, explosives, grenade launchers and a sniper rifle.

Having spent almost four years on remand Campbell would have about eight years to serve if his appeal failed. He might be transferred to Ireland to see out his term.

Campbell’s lawyer said: “many questions remain unanswered” about the legality of how evidence was gathered in Ireland, Spain and Lithuania. She compared Campbell’s case to that of Desmond Kearns, whom Belfast Crown Court last year cleared of alleged arms smuggling for the Real IRA when it found he had been entrapped by an MI5 agent.

Lithuania is now seeking the extradition of his brother, Liam Campbell who is in Maghaberry prison in Co Antrim, and fellow Louth man Brendan McGuigan, who it claims are involved in the case. In 2009, members of the Omagh bomb families were awarded £1.6 million in damages in a civil case against Liam Campbell and three other men. McKevitt and Campbell lost an appeal against the civil court judgment this year. Murphy and Daly were successful in their appeals.