Prominent republican Liam Campbell could soon be extradited to Lithuania following a ruling by the 26 County Supreme Court in Dublin, despite the fact he never set foot in the country.
Mr Campbell, from County Louth, has not yet been charged by a state which in 2008 wrongly convicted his brother Michael and handed him a 12-year sentence, before overturning the conviction five years later.
The extradition was approved despite Mr Campbell’s lawyers pointing out that no decision has yet been taken in Lithuania to try him and prosecutors there are still attempting to gather evidence.
In a decision which came as a shock to justice campaigners, the five-judge court declared on Monday that the “intention exists” in Lithuania to try Mr Campbell.
The court admitted that it is not permissible to surrender a person for gathering evidence, but argued that only “a procedural step” is missing. They allowed the extradition to proceed based on they said was “a high probability” that Mr Campbell will be charged and tried.
They also dismissed a United Nations Committee Against Torture report on Lithuanian prisons which expressed serious concerns about the conditions in which prisoners were held across the entire Lithuanian prison system.
Republican Network fo Unity described the move as “a cruel injustice” and warned Mr Campbell would be subjected to the same cruel and inhuman conditions in a Lithuanian cell that his brother endured.
“Lithuania are known globally for their appalling standards of human rights and also their judicial corruption. The Supreme Court today ruled that he will be surrendered by the Free Staters, who once again dance to their masters tune in London,” they said.
“We send our unwavering support to Liam and his family at this time, we will fully support any campaign for his release and will continue to highlight this incredible injustice.”
There was disappointment for the 14-year ‘Keep Liam Home’ campaign which had gathered significant political support across Ireland. Republican Sinn Féin described the decision as “extraordinary”.
“The dreadful conditions in Lithuanian jails are well known from when Liam’s brother Michael Campbell was incarcerated there,” they said.
“For a state to extradite one of its own citizens to stand trial in a country with such a record on prison conditions and prisoners’ rights is beyond disgraceful. Since his first arrest in 2009 Liam has spent four years in jail, this despite not being convicted of any crime and in now into his 14th year fighting his extradition to a country he has never visited.
“Even the Brits refused to hand him over in 2013 when the Belfast Recorder’s Court refused to order his extradition on the basis ‘that he was likely to be held in conditions which would be inhuman and degrading’ which is unacceptable for an Irish citizen to be subjected to.
They added: “Sinn Féin Poblachtach has always opposed political extradition of its citizens to a foreign country and will continue to do so. What the state has done is against natural justice, but we expect little else from them as regards political cases.”