Page last updated at 11:18 GMT, Thursday, 8 October 2009 12:18 UK

Lithuania arms man denies crime

Michael Campbell confers with one of his legal team at the hearing
Michael Campbell confers with one of his legal team at the hearing

A Dundalk man on trial in Lithuania has denied trying to buy arms for dissident republican group the Real IRA.

Michael Campbell, 36, was arrested in 2008 in a sting operation in Vilnius and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors read out charges on Wednesday afternoon of attempting to obtain weapons illegally and aiding a terrorist organisation.

"No, no," Mr Campbell responded, "I have no criminal record."

Under Lithuanian law, he was not required to enter a plea but could react to the charges. He told the court he would make a detailed statement later in the trial, which is expected to last for months.

Mr Campbell was detained while meeting an undercover Lithuanian agent posing as an arms dealer.

His defence lawyers claim he was set up and that the case is groundless. But a key prosecution witness rejected that.

Dismissal rejected

"I believe Michael Campbell is a member of the Real IRA. He was actively acquiring firearms for use against British forces in Northern Ireland," Detective Superintendent Diarmuid O'Sullivan, of the Republic of Ireland's counter-terrorism unit, told the court.

"Michael Campbell was caught in Lithuania. The firearms and explosives were not to be used for anything other than violent acts in Northern Ireland," he said.

Earlier, Mr Campbell's lawyers demanded the removal of lead prosecutor Gedgaudas Norkunas, claiming he was biased and had pressured the accused.

Judge Arunas Kisielius rejected that request, but approved defence demands that the accused be allowed to make two monthly telephone calls to his wife, Fiona Duffy.

She was also detained in the Vilnius sting but freed four months later.



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