An Irishman jailed for 12 years in Lithuania for plotting to smuggle arms to paramilitary group the Real IRA appeared in an appeals court Thursday, seeking to prove he was set up by British intelligence.
"Michael Campbell claims that the crimes were not committed of his own free will but were provoked by agents of the United Kingdom's intelligence service," appeals judge Viktoras Kazys said as he outlined the defence arguments.
Prosecutors have also appealed the October 21 sentence which fell short of the 16-year term they had sought -- the original judges underlined that the plot did not bear fruit and the security services were involved.
Campbell, 39, waved to photographers and smiled as he was brought handcuffed into court in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.
Arrested in a January 2008 sting in Vilnius as as he met a Lithuanian agent who posed as an arms dealer, he went on trial in August 2009.
He was convicted of attempted smuggling, aiding a terrorist organisation and illegal possession of arms.
Campbell insists he was not acting for the Real Irish Republican Army, which in 1997 broke with the Provisional IRA, once the main armed group opposed to British rule in Northern Ireland, over a peace deal.
Campbell has dismissed any role of his elder brother Liam, one of four Real IRA leaders found liable by a civil court for a 1998 bombing in Omagh, Northern Ireland, which killed 29 people.
Michael Campbell alleges he was framed in a money-making scheme run by prosecution witness Robert Jardine -- identified in court as a smuggler and British agent.
"We got acquainted through the cigarettes business," said Campbell, a convicted tobacco smuggler.
When asked if his plans with Jardine were legal, he told the judge they involved "contraband" but refused to elaborate.
Campbell has claimed Jardine suggested using a Real IRA cover to impress the supposed arms dealers.
His lawyer Ingrida Botyriene called for more information from Britain about Jardine.
"There is no document in the case which would define the limits of authorisation given to this person," she said.
But prosecutor Gedgaudas Norkunas said confirmation that Jardine's role was legal was enough.
Source: AFP European Edition