Court in Ireland finds ex-soldier guilty of ISIL membership

Former Irish soldier Lisa Smith is found guilty of being a member of an armed group in Syria from 2015 to 2019.

Former member of the Irish Defence Forces Lisa Smith arrives at the Criminal Courts of Justice charged with membership of the so-called Islamic State (IS) terror group and funding terrorism, in Dublin
Former member of the Irish Defence Forces Lisa Smith arrives at the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin [File: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters]

Three judges at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin have found former soldier Lisa Smith guilty of joining the ISIL (ISIS) armed group in Syria.

Smith, 40, wept in the dock as Judge Tony Hunt on Monday read the panel’s decision, which was delivered after a nine-week trial.

The Muslim convert, who wore a hijab to court, pleaded not guilty to membership of the armed group between October 28, 2015 and December 1, 2019.

Judge Hunt said the prosecution had established beyond reasonable doubt that she travelled to Syria “with her eyes open” and pledged allegiance to the group, led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

She was acquitted of a separate charge of “financing terrorism” by sending 800 euros ($900) to aid medical treatment for a Syrian man in Turkey.

Hunt said there was reasonable doubt that she intended the money to be used for humanitarian purposes rather than to fund “terrorism”. He granted her bail until a sentencing hearing on July 11.

Route to Raqqa

During the trial, which began in January, prosecutors detailed how Smith, who was a member of the Irish Defence Forces from 2001 to 2011, travelled to ISIL-controlled territory in 2015 after converting to Islam.

In 2012, she went on pilgrimage to Mecca and expressed a desire on an Islamic Facebook page to live under Islamic law and to die a “martyr”.

The court was told that she bought a one-way ticket from Dublin to Turkey, crossed the border into Syria and lived in Raqqa.

At the time, ISIL ruled over vast swaths of Syria and Iraq, attracting thousands of foreign fighters to their cause before the group’s territorial defeat in the region.

After failing to convince her husband to join her, Smith divorced him in 2016 and married a UK national involved in the group’s armed patrols.

Returning to Ireland

As ISIL lost ground to a US-led coalition on the battlefield and towns and cities under its sway fell, Smith was forced to flee Raqqa and then Baghouz, their last remaining stronghold, before returning to Ireland.

She was arrested on arrival at Dublin airport on December 1, 2019 with her young daughter.

Defence lawyers argued that Smith’s presence in ISIL territory did not make her a de facto member of the group.

They have said it could only be argued “at a stretch” that she provided some sort of assistance to the group because she had kept a home for her husband.

The three judges sat without a jury at the Special Criminal Court, which adjudicates cases involving “terrorism” and organised crime offences.

Source: News Agencies