Real IRA man guilty of arms charges
Published 21/10/2011 | 11:42
A Lithuanian judge has found an Irishman guilty of trying to buy weapons and explosives in a six-year sting orchestrated by Britain's domestic spy agency MI5, and jailed him for 12 years.
Judge Arunas Kisielus of Vilnius Regional Court sentenced Michael Campbell - a 39-year-old with alleged links to the Real IRA - to 12 years in prison for weapons offences and supporting a terrorist group.
Video footage and intercepted communications showed that Campbell paid 6,000 euros (about £5,200) for high-grade explosives, grenade launchers, detonators, AK-47s and a special assassin's rifle to Lithuanian agents posing as arms dealers.
In an audio recording, he is heard discussing how easy it would be with the type of equipment on offer to plant a bomb in London and escape.
"You can imagine us getting over to England ... you imagine, with a six-hour timer, we could be over to London and back. Just tick, tick, tick, tick ... gone."
Mr Kisielius sentenced Campbell to five years for weapons possession, six years for attempting to smuggle weaponry and explosives, and 12 years for supporting a terrorist group. However he said the sentences on the weapons charges would be cancelled since no harm was caused and that Campbell did not have prior convictions for similar offences.
The case against Campbell was extraordinary in that an MI5 informant testified in open court - evidence that is thought to have clinched the conviction.
His defence lawyer, Inga Botyriene, said she expected Campbell to appeal. He has 20 days to do so once he receives a translation of the verdict. The time Campbell has spent in detention since his 2008 arrest would be subtracted from his 12-year sentence.
"It's a not a big surprise," Ms Botyriene said of the verdict. She argued that Campbell was a victim of entrapment by foreign agents, who lured Campbell to Lithuania, where the MI5 had a better chance of winning a conviction. "That's why the trial is in Lithuania," she said.