Former soldier Lisa Smith 'willing to die as an IS martyr', court hears

The Co Louth woman, 39, has pleaded not guilty to charges of membership of the illegal organisation and of providing funds to benefit the group
Former soldier Lisa Smith 'willing to die as an IS martyr', court hears

Lisa Smith, from Dundalk, Co Louth, leaving the Special Criminal Court on Tuesday after the first day of her trial. Picture: Collins Courts

Former Defence Forces soldier Lisa Smith “enveloped herself in the black flag” of the so-called Islamic State (IS), the Special Criminal Court has heard.

The Co Louth woman, 39, has pleaded not guilty to charges of membership of the illegal organisation and of providing funds to benefit the group.

Sean Gillane SC, for the prosecution, told the court that the accused’s conduct during the period between 2015 and 2019 when she travelled to Syria could “prove membership” of the terror organisation.

In his opening remarks, Mr Gillane said the court would hear that Ms Smith spoke about her “joy” at being in Syria, that she had “wanted jihad”, that she had a desire to live under Sharia law and had a “willingness to die as a martyr”.

He said the court would hear evidence that Ms Smith had taken part in “hijrah”, or migration to territories controlled by IS.

He said the evidence would show that Ms Smith willingly remained in Syria, married there, and that her movements mirrored that of the terror group when it lost territories in the region.

The prosecutor said there was a “reciprocity” to Ms Smith’s allegiance to IS, in that she had received “protection” while in the region.

“Ms Smith specifically addressed, assessed, and answered the call to migrate to territory controlled by IS,” said Mr Gillane.

“Every inch of that territory was won by a targeted campaign of violence.”

The court heard that the accused had begun her trip to Syria in October 2015 and that she had lied to family members about her destination.

Ms Smith bought a one-way ticket from Dublin to Istanbul, which was paid for in cash, the court heard.

From there, she crossed the border into Syria and IS-controlled territory.

When she arrived, she was instructed to change the security settings on her phone, and to join another group on the private messaging service Telegram, the court was told.

Around this time, Ms Smith “made clear to her family her desire to stay”, the court was told.

Witness

The court heard from the first witness, Una McCartney, from Dundalk, a friend of Ms Smith for between 15 and 20 years.

She told the court that she and Ms Smith had plenty of discussions about religion around the time of her conversion to Islam around 2007.

Ms McCartney described them as “normal discussions” regarding different beliefs in Catholicism and Islam.

She said Ms Smith had discussed moving to a Muslim country because she wanted to be “surrounded by people who were the same faith as her”, but said she did not recall Ms Smith stating any intention to travel to Syria.

Under cross-examination by Michael O’Higgins SC, for the defence, Ms McCartney said Ms Smith has a troubled background.

“I don’t think her home life growing up was too great,” Ms McCartney told the court.

“Her dad was an alcoholic, I think he probably was a bit violent.

“We all enjoyed drinking, partying, myself included. We were probably a bit wild.

“Drink didn’t really suit her.”

The witness told the court that she believed Ms Smith’s interest in Islam would “fizzle out” over time.

“She would go hell for leather with things in the beginning and then it would fizzle out.

“I thought this would fizzle out as well.”

Detained in Syria

The case received widespread attention in 2019 when it emerged that Ms Smith, a former air corps soldier who had worked on the Government jet, had been detained in Syria over alleged links to IS.

Ms Smith was arrested at Dublin Airport in 2019 on suspicion of terrorist offences after returning from Turkey in November with her young daughter.

Ms Smith is charged under section 6 of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005 which makes it an offence to join a foreign unlawful organisation.

She has denied the charges.

The case will resume on Wednesday at the Special Criminal Court.

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