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Former soldier Lisa Smith sentenced to 15 months for Islamic State membership

Smith, 40, was found guilty in May of membership of the terror group but acquitted of financing terrorism.

Updated Jul 22nd 2022, 11:40 AM

EX-DEFENCE FORCES member Lisa Smith, who was found guilty of being a member of the so-called Islamic State group, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. 

Smith, 40, was found guilty in May of membership of the IS terror group but was acquitted of a separate charge of financing terrorism after a nine-week trial at the non-jury Special Criminal Court.

At a sentencing hearing this morning, Smith was jailed for 15 months. 

Mr Justice Tony Hunt did not suspend any portion of the sentence and noted that, while Smith is at a low risk for reoffending, she was persistent and determined in her efforts to travel to Syria and join Isis and has shown no remorse for her actions.

He said judges had considered the reports submitted to the court and the time Smith had spent in camps in Syria.

Justice Hunt said: “She may have been easily led but then displayed characteristics of resilience: the rejection of her family, travelling to Syria and remaining there to the bitter end.”

He also said her focus was now on her daughter.

“It appears the likelihood of reoffending is low,” the judge told the court.

He added that the panel of judges accepted that life in the Syrian camps was “arduous” and the “equivalent” of being in prison.

He said the judges had given a “substantial” discount off the sentence due to Smith’s time in detention.

After “balancing all factors” Smith was sentenced to 15 months in prison.

Convert

Smith, a convert to Islam, went to Syria in 2015 after terrorist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called on Muslims to travel to the country.

The Co Louth woman had pleaded not guilty to charges of membership of IS and providing funds to benefit the group.

She was granted bail ahead of sentencing.

Smith accepted that she travelled to Isis-controlled Syria in 2014 but denied that she had ever joined Isis or any other group.

She said she believed she had a religious obligation to live inside the Islamic State created by terrorist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt, delivering the court’s verdict, said that she went to Syria with her “eyes wide open” having watched videos of Isis atrocities and having taken part in discussions about Isis with jihadis from Germany, Australia, America and parts of the Middle East.

He said that her journey to Syria was in itself an act of allegiance and pointed to evidence that she swore an oath of allegiance to al-Baghdadi and that she urged her former husband to do the same and divorced him when he refused.

She was the first person to be convicted in an Irish court of an Islamic terrorist offence committed abroad.

‘Treated like a servant’

Smith, from Dundalk, was described in court earlier this month as an “extremely vulnerable person” who was “treated like a servant” by her late husband when in Syria.

The details emerged during a sentencing hearing on 11 July as her barrister argued that the former soldier should receive a suspended sentence.

During the hearing, barrister Michael O’Higgins SC argued that the state of Smith’s marriage to a man, who the prosecution has claimed was a member of IS while in Syria, is “a very relevant factor in mitigation”.

O’Higgins said that conditions endured by Smith in a Syrian camp, combined with the strict bail conditions imposed on her for two-and-a-half years in Ireland, meant that a suspended sentence was warranted.

The court heard that after leaving Baghuz, Smith stayed at the Al Hawl camp from February to mid-April in an “undercurrent of fear”, with guards patrolling the area and “dogs let out at night”.

Her barrister argued that if those two arguments are not accepted, there should be a sentence on the “lower end”, particularly considering Smith’s child and “all of the very unusual circumstances”.

The verdict in the case was read out by Justice Tony Hunt on 30 May.

In his judgment, Justice Hunt, who sat as part of the three-judge court, acquitted her of the financing terrorism charge, saying it could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt that when she sent €800 to a man in 2015 it was specifically for the purpose of supporting the IS group.

But the judge said the prosecution had established beyond reasonable doubt that Smith took up membership of IS when she crossed the border into Syria in October 2015.

With reporting by Eoin Reynolds of Ireland International News Agency

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