Lisa Smith walked toddler daughter, 'through bombs, poverty, and cesspit camps' to come home, lawyer tells court

Former defence forces soldier Lisa Smith has been denied bail after she appeared in a court in Dublin charged with membership of the ISIS terrorist organisation.

Lisa Smith walked toddler daughter, 'through bombs, poverty, and cesspit camps' to come home, lawyer tells court

Former defence forces soldier Lisa Smith has been denied bail after she appeared in a court in Dublin charged with membership of the ISIS terrorist organisation.

Her lawyer pleaded that the 37-year-old had come back to Ireland after walking with her toddler daughter, “through bombs, poverty, and cesspit camps, and desert, to come to her country of origin”.

She was deported along with her daughter, aged two, from Turkey on Sunday, but was refused bail today following strenuous objections that she had been radicalised and joined the middle eastern terror group.

The Co Louth woman is denying the allegations and claimed she went to live in the declared Islamic State, and was following teaching of the Koran, after a period in her life when she had suffered severe depression and was suicidal, district court president Judge Colin Daly heard.

Refused bail on a number of grounds, she was remanded in custody to appear again at Dublin District Court on December 11 to be served with a book of evidence. Possible further charges are contemplated.

Smith, with an address at Aghameen Park, Dundalk, Co. Louth, was remanded to Mountjoy women's unit, the Dochas Centre.

Following a request from defence solicitor, the judge made a recommendation for her to be segregated from the rest of the prison population for her own security.

On conviction, she faces a maximum 10-year sentence. The Director of Public Prosecutions has directed trial on indictment, prosecution solicitor Edward Flynn said.

A convoy of vehicles transporting Lisa Smith to court today. Pic: Collins Courts
A convoy of vehicles transporting Lisa Smith to court today. Pic: Collins Courts

Wearing a black burqa with most of her face covered, Smith did not address the court and sat facing the judge throughout a lengthy, contested bail hearing.

Her face was visible when she entered the courtroom but she pulled up her burqa, covering most her face leaving only her eyes exposed as the proceedings got under-way.

Smith has been questioned by gardai as part of a criminal investigation into suspected of terrorism offences abroad.

The Co Louth woman travelled to Syria in 2015 after converting to Islam almost a decade ago and she subsequently married a British man.

She was later discovered living in a Kurdish-controlled refugee camp in war-torn Syria and walked with her child to Turkey where she was later questioned by the FBI.

She had been escorted back to Ireland by members of the elite Army Ranger Wing and Department of Foreign Affairs personnel on Sunday morning. She was handed over to gardai after her commercial airlines flight landed.

Her child has been cared for by family members.

She was detained at Kevin Street Garda station under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act, which allowed garda detain her for a maximum of 72 hours. She was taken to the district court on Tuesday morning when the presiding judge granted senior gardai permission to hold her for the final 24 hours.

Shortly before 11.30am on Wednesday, after she was charged, she was brought in a blacked out unmarked black van, escorted by Garda armed support units, to the Criminal Courts of Justice Building.

She appeared before Judge Colin Daly at Dublin District Court at 12.13pm

Lisa Smith
Lisa Smith

Her charges sheet states: “That you the said Lisa Marie Smith between October, 28 2015 and December 1, 2019, both dates inclusive, outside the State, did commit an act which if committed in the State would constitute an offence under Section 21 of the Offences Against the State Act 1939, as amended by Section 5 of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005, in that you were a member of a terrorist group which is an unlawful organisation, to wit an organisation styling itself the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) also known as Dawlat al-Iraq al-Islamiyya, Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Dawlat al Islamiya fi Iraq wa al Sham, otherwise known as 'Da’esh' and the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham.

It is an offence contrary to the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005.

Smith joined the Irish defence forces after leaving school in 2000 and also served with the Air Corps on the government jet.

She made no reply when charged said Special Detective Unit Sergeant Gareth Kane, who objected to bail citing the seriousness of the case, her alleged radicalisation and possible flight risk.

Det Sgt Kane alleged she was radicalised in her home-town, Dundalk, before leaving the country.

He alleged she married an ISIS member from Britain when she moved to Syria. She allegedly provided finances and pledged allegiance to ISIS, “in full knowledge of its brutal regime”, after a caliphate was declared.

He also cited flight risk fears saying: “She has shown ability to enter countries Syria in times of conflict”.

He also told Judge Daly there were not any bail terms that would allay his concerns.

Pleading for bail, defence solicitor Peter Corrigan, told the court his client, who remained silent during the hearing, was a loyal Muslim but never a member of ISIS, never used a weapon or trained anyone. The fighting was over by the time she got to Syria, he also submitted.

He told the court that she had an exemplary record in the Irish Defence Forces and with the Air Corps. She later went through a difficult time in her life, the solicitor said, adding that she suffered from severe depression, was suicidal and was on prescription medication.

“I could sum it up, she was very vulnerable young woman,” he said, adding that, “she was looking for answers to life and in 2011 she found Islam, and became Muslim”.

Mr Corrigan said when a caliphate was declared people from all Islamic sects were obliged to go to Islamic State.

Lisa Smith (left) being escorted by a Garda from the Criminal Courts of Justice yesterday. Pic: Collins
Lisa Smith (left) being escorted by a Garda from the Criminal Courts of Justice yesterday. Pic: Collins

“Living in Islamic State does not make her guilty of an offence,” he argued. He said the law says, “There must an intention to terrorise the population.”

He submitted that she went to Syria in 2015, and ISIS had taken over Iraq by 2015.

“She was told by her religious advisor that there was a moral religious duty to go there,” he said.

Videos were put out that it was the caliphate and all Muslims were to go there, he said. Thousands – the elderly, the sick and professionals including doctors – went, Mr Corrigan said.

She later handed herself in to Kurdish SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) fighters in 2019 and was taken to a “horrendous camp” where she stayed from February until April with her young daughter, he said.

There were sewage problems and high risk of infant mortality and, “she wanted to bring herself and most importantly her daughter here, to live in Ireland”.

She survived and walked through the desert to Turkey with her daughter to get back to Ireland, he said.

Smith was, “in an emotional State by being separated from her daughter, who she brought through bombs, poverty, and cesspit camps, and desert, to come to her country of origin”.

She had also condemned ISIS for their barbaric acts, he said.

There was no evidence she trained anyone, was never a member, and he added there was no evidence she ever held a gun or was involved in the fighting, he argued.

He also submitted that the fighting had been over by the time she got there.

He also said the only money she gave was about £800 to a sick person and his family who had needed support.

Her only attempt at communication during the court hearing was when she summoned one of her legal team to correct instructions to her solicitor.

Mr Corrigan said Smith missed her daughter terribly and had would abide by strict bail terms.

Judge Daly refused bail.

Smith was remanded to Mountjoy women's unit, the Dochas Centre.

Following a request from defence solicitor, the judge made a recommendation for her to be segregated from the rest of the prison population for her own security.

Legal aid was granted after the court was furnished with a statement of her means and Judge Daly said, “she appears to be a woman of no means”.

This story was updated at 4.10pm.

Earlier: Lisa Smith is to be charged with membership of a terrorist organisation.

The former Defence Forces member is charged under Section Six (1)(i) of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005 which makes it an offence to join a foreign unlawful organisation.

Earlier: Gardaí have said that Lisa Smith is to be charged and will appear before the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin this morning.

The former Defence Forces member has been charged with terror offences relating to her time with the so-called Islamic State.

Earlier: Lisa Smith remains in custody in Dublin this morning after her return to Ireland from Turkey over the weekend.

She has spent a third night being questioned by gardaí and a decision is expected today on whether she will be released or not.

The 38-year-old had her period of detention extended to a third day and was still being questioned by members of the Garda Special Detective Unit overnight.

The Dundalk woman is in custody as part of a criminal investigation into alleged terrorist offences.

She was arrested by gardaí on Sunday morning after she returned to Ireland on board a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul with her two-year-old daughter.

She travelled to Syria three years ago to join the so-called Islamic State group, but maintains she was not involved in fighting.

She is still being held in Kevin Street garda station in Dublin, but her period of detention cannot be extended again.

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