Barristers argue Louth man liable for Omagh bomb should not be extradited
Liam Campbell, who was found civilly liable for the Omagh bombing, should not be surrendered to the Lithuanian authorities where he is suspected of international weapons trafficking, his lawyers have told the Court of Appeal.
Campbell, who has been battling extradition for more than 12 years, wants the three-judge court to overturn a decision by the High Court surrendering him to Lithuanian prosecutors who allege that he was involved in the smuggling of weapons in support of the Real IRA (RIRA) between the end of 2006 and early 2007.
Campbell (58) was arrested in Upper Faughart, Dundalk, Co Louth, on December 2, 2016, on foot of the second European Arrest Warrant (EAW) issued by Lithuanian authorities to be endorsed by the High Court here. It was the third attempt overall by Lithuania to seek Campbell's surrender.
The 1998 Omagh bombing was the single deadliest incident in the Troubles, resulting in 29 deaths.
Remy Farrell SC for Campbell said there is clear evidence that the Lithuanians have not made a decision to try his client but want him extradited so they can continue their investigation into the crime alleged against him.
Counsel said that section 21A of the European Arrest Warrant Act 2003 states "in black and white" that the "High Court shall refuse to surrender the person if it is satisfied that a decision has not been made to charge the person with, and try him or her for, that offence."
Mr Farrell pointed to an affidavit from the Lithuanian authorities which, counsel said, "clearly indicates that a decision hasn't been made" as to whether to put Campbell on trial. The affidavit, he said, indicated that any decision to prosecute is contingent on evidence yet to be gathered. Criticising the High Court's decision to extradite Campbell, counsel said the court's findings were "perverse" and ignored the evidence that the Lithuanians had not yet made a decision.
Pat McGrath SC for the Minister for Justice responded, saying that Mr Farrell was inviting the Court of Appeal to rewrite the law. He said the courts had decided in numerous previous cases to take a "cosmopolitan" approach to what constitutes a decision to begin legal proceedings in circumstances where different European member states have different legal systems. He accused Mr Farrell of taking a "provincial approach" to words such as "prosecution" and "try" rather than the cosmopolitan interpretation adopted by the courts.
Counsel said that the Lithuanian system requires the input of the accused person before an indictment can be brought but that the intention at present is to put Campbell on trial.
Mr Justice John Edwards, presiding, with Mr Justice Donald Binchy and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, reserved judgement.
The EAW had sought Campbell in relation to three alleged offences: preparation of a crime, illegal possession of firearms, and terrorism. The maximum sentence for the offence of terrorism is 20 years.
The warrant alleges that Campbell "made arrangements while acting in an organised terrorist group, the Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA) to acquire a substantial number of firearms and explosives from Lithuania and smuggle them into Ireland".
It further alleges that during the end of 2006 to 2007 Campbell "made arrangements with Seamus McGreevy, Michael Campbell (his brother), Brendan McGuigan and other unidentified persons to travel to Lithuania for the purposes of acquiring firearms and explosives, including, automatic rifles, sniper guns, projectors, detonators, timers and trotyl [TNT]".
Campbell had previously spent four years in custody in Northern Ireland during a second attempt to extradite him but was released when he succeeded in his objection that to do so would be a breach of his rights.