Michael Campbell not in Real IRA, Lithuania court hears

Michael Campbell Lithuania Michael Campbell faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty

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A Dundalk man on trial for attempted arms smuggling in Lithuania has denied being a member of the Real IRA.

Michael Campbell told a court on Wednesday that although he did travel to the Baltic state to buy weapons, he did not intend to use them to arm republican paramilitaries.

Mr Campbell was arrested in 2008 in a sting operation involving Lithuanian, Irish and British secret services.

He claims that he was "provoked" into the action by British secret services.

Prosecutors said Mr Campbell, 38, a convicted cigarette smuggler, paid undercover Lithuanian agents 10,000 euros (£8,646) to buy weapons, including a sniper rifle, detonators, timers and high explosives.

They say he intended to smuggle them out of the country.

Mr Campbell's brother, Liam Campbell, is a convicted member of the Real IRA.

He was also found liable in a civil trial of involvement in the Omagh bomb of 1998 in which 29 people were killed.

'Provoked'

Prosecutors alleged that Michael Campbell was acting on the orders of his brother to bring the weapons back to Ireland.

Mr Campbell told the court that he had been "provoked" by an MI5 agent to come to Lithuania to buy weapons in 2008.

He said he wanted to acquire weapons because they were in demand by criminals and were "a much better business than cigarettes".

"I am not a member of the Real IRA," he said.

Mr Campbell is also charged with providing support for a terrorist organisation.

He said he could not recall discussing the use of explosives against police cars and armoured vehicles with undercover Lithuanian agents.

Mr Campbell's defence lawyer, Ingrida Botyriene, said: "His position is that the acts he is being tried for were provoked by the special services of the United Kingdom and Lithuania."

Mr Campbell was giving testimony for the first time since the case came to court in Lithuania in 2009. He faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

The court is expected to deliver a verdict within the next two months.

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