Campaign seeks support for repatriation of Lithuanian-held Irish prisoner

June 17, 2013

A campaign is underway to repatriate Republican prisoner Michael Campbell from a squalid Lithuanian prison where he has been held for more than five years.

The Repatriate Michael Campbell Campaign Group is seeking to highlight the plight of the Faughart man ahead of an important court hearing later this month, the outcome of which has the potential to either pave the way for his repatriation to Ireland or prolong his incarceration for many years.

Campbell was arrested in January 2008 during a sting operation that involved MI5, Gardaí and Lithuanian police.  Prosecutors allege he was attempting to procure weapons for the Real IRA. He denies the charge, saying he travelled to Vilnius to purchase counterfeit cigarettes and that he is the victim of a conspiracy by British and Lithuanian Intelligence services.

Campbell has been imprisoned in Lithuania since his arrest and, following a protracted and difficult trial which lasted over two years, he was handed a 12 year sentence.  He is being held in Lukiskes prison in Vilnius in conditions described in a 2010 report by Professor Rod Morgan – a renowned Home Office Advisor to the UK Criminal Justice Inspectorate – as “inhuman and degrading.”

His family, along with supporters of his repatriation, have claimed since his imprisonment began that the conditions continue to violate human rights laws, despite criticism of the prison regime by both the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (ECPT) and the European Court of Human Rights.

A spokesperson for the Repatriation Support group revealed to The Examiner some of the conditions Campbell has endured over the last five years, including sharing a tiny, maggot and cockroach-infested cell for 23 hours a day with three other prisoners, and having just one hour’s exercise per day in a restricted yard.

“Prisoners are forced to toilet in the cell without privacy and are deprived of adequate or private personal hygiene facilities, sometimes going several weeks without showers,” said the spokesperson, adding that meagre food rations are provided at a value of just 80p per day, and drinking water is so scarce that prisoners have been forced to melt snow in order to have access to water.

Lithuanian authorities have continually refused Campbell any visits and he has had periods of over two years where he has not been seen by any member of his family.  His legal visits are also restricted and evidence of abuse of process in relation to his trial has been uncovered by his lawyer, Inga Botyriene, and confirmed by the above-mentioned Professor Rod Morgan.

The support group representative went on to explain the importance of the appeal court hearing later this month.  He revealed that, as an Irish National, Michael is entitled to seek repatriation to Ireland to serve the remainder of his sentence and be closer to his family and that, as a supposed member of the European Union, the Lithuanian authorities should agree to this request.

He claims however that the MI5 backed Lithuanian authorities are exploiting a loophole which deems that eligibility for repatriation does not arise until all legal affairs in Lithuania have been concluded, by filing the “unmerited appeal” against his sentence

He added that since the appeal was lodged the Lithuanian authorities have “adopted any means possible to elongate the process”.

“In an effort to ensure Michael remains incarcerated in squalid conditions thousands of miles from his family, MI5 have sought to delay the appeal by linking it to failed attempts which had previously been made to seek the extradition of his brother Liam from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland,” said the spokesperson.

“Both of these extradition attempts have been rejected by the courts in both jurisdictions on the basis of the squalid custodial conditions and the slim possibility of receiving a fair trial in Lithuania.  Although appeals have been lodged by the Lithuanian authorities to the appellate Courts, they are unlikely to succeed.

“Over 18 months since the appeal was lodged, it has still not been heard.  Indeed the Lithuanian prosecutor has recently sought to persuade the Court that Michael’s appeal should be stayed even further (i.e. stalled indefinitely) until all extradition hearings in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are completed.  That could take years, perhaps even longer than Michael has to serve in terms of the remainder of his current sentence.

“Michael’s appeal is due to be brought back before the Court on 27th June.  His lawyers are arguing to have the appeal actually heard on this date.  This would be the only right and proper event.  All Michael wants to do is serve the remainder of his 12 year sentence in Ireland.  This would mean he could be close to his family and be kept in the same prison conditions any Irish man or woman is entitled to be kept in.

“It defies belief that the Irish government can assume presidency of the EU yet condone the incarceraton of an Irish prisoner in such deplorable and inhumane conditions in a European prison.”

The Repatriate Michael Campbell Campaign group is thus appealing for people to bring Michael’s plight to the attention of the authorities in NI, ROI, UK, USA, EU and Lithuania.  They are also urging supporters to contact local councillors, TD’s, MLA’s and MP’s, as well as civil rights, human rights and prisoners’ rights groups, locally and internationally.

“Write to the various parliaments and governments, their legal advisors and their Judges groups. Contact anyone you can think of who could possibly help.  Join the campaign to repatriate Michael Campbell,” he added.