Liam Campbell, who was found civilly liable for the Omagh bombing, is to be extradited to Lithuania, where he is suspected of international weapons smuggling in support of the Real IRA.
The Court of Appeal on Wednesday dismissed an appeal against surrender by Campbell, who has been battling extradition for more than 12 years.
He had wanted 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 between the end of 2006 and early 2007.
He had argued he could not be surrendered as the Lithuanian authorities had not made a decision to actually try him. However, the Court of Appeal found there was an intention to put him on trial there.
Campbell (58) was arrested in Upper Faughart, Dundalk, Co Louth, on December 2nd, 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 by Lithuania to seek Campbell's surrender.
The 1998 Omagh bombing was the single deadliest incident in the Troubles, resulting in 29 deaths.
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.
Firearms and explosives
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.
In June 2020 the High Court ordered Campbell’s extradition to Lithuania but he appealed that decision to surrender him to the Court of Appeal earlier this year.
His barrister, Remy Farrell SC, had said there was 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 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.
Pat McGrath SC, for the Minister for Justice, said the courts had previously decided 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.
Counsel said 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, delivered judgment.
He said that the court agreed with High Court justice Aileen Donnelly, who had ordered his surrender, that Campbell had never presented evidence that no decision had been taken to charge or try him.
He quoted from her judgment delivered last year, where she had noted the criminal justice system in Lithuania was not similar to Ireland’s.
“The evidence in the case... demonstrates an intention to put the respondent on trial as is indicated by the fact that there is a high probability that a bill of indictment will be lodged against him,” she had found.
“The EAW has been issued with a view to putting him on trial for these matters, but Lithuanian law requires that he has an opportunity to present his case during the investigative stage,” she added.
Justice Edwards said the Court of Appeal found no error on Justice Donnelly’s part, and dismissed the appeal.