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Lisa Smith tried to justify suicide bombings, trial told

The former Defence Forces soldier, 39, has pleaded not guilty to charges of membership of Islamic State.

Image: PA

Updated Jan 26th 2022, 5:54 PM

FORMER DEFENCE FORCES soldier Lisa Smith was interested in the “harsh end of Islam” and tried to justify suicide bombs, the Special Criminal Court has heard.

The 39-year-old, from Co Louth, has pleaded not guilty to charges of membership of the illegal organisation Islamic State and of providing funds to benefit the group.

On the second day of her trial, the court heard Smith frequently discussed jihad and was “justifying why suicide bombs were happening”, giving the view that “we were being attacked, so we were attacking back”.

Giving evidence today, Carol “Karimah” Duffy, of the Dundalk Muslim Community Mosque, told the court she had been called on to speak with Smith after her decision to convert to Islam.

Ms Duffy, who had known Smith since childhood, said she warned her becoming a Muslim is “very hard”, that it would be difficult to explain to her family, and she would suffer abuse for converting.

Smith’s response was “It will be fine”, the court heard.

As an Irish Muslim, Ms Duffy was asked to work with Smith and invited her to a “learning circle”.

She told the court Smith “did not attend very often”, and the classes “didn’t go very well”.

There were a number of conversations between Smith and the others in the learning circle that the other women “didn’t take very well”, Ms Duffy told the court.

Smith’s interest in the religion was “more political, not so much Islamic”, she said.

She said Smith had a habit of judging others because of what they were wearing, or who they were talking to.

“She was more interested in the harsh end of Islam,” Ms Duffy said.

Ms Duffy said at that time, around 2011, there was a lot of talk about al-Qaida.

She said Smith had engaged in “a lot of talk about jihad, about suicide bombs” and was “justifying why suicide bombs were happening”, and that her view was “we were being attacked, so we were attacking back”.

Smith’s version of Islam was about “holy war and jihad”, Ms Duffy said.

She added: “Nowadays there is no holy war, our version of jihad is not that.”

Ms Duffy said Smith also frequently discussed the situation in Chechnya and believed strongly in “Shahid”, an honour bestowed on those who become martyrs in the name of Islam.

“She believed it was important to push your husband to be Shahid,” Ms Duffy told the court. “Some believe if your husband dies a Shahid, it’s the most honourable way to die.”

Ms Duffy said that after 2011, Smith was discussing the religion with people online and becoming “more withdrawn”.

She said Smith became “more argumentative” about Islam and “about things that we as Muslims do”.

Ms Duffy said at one stage, Smith “was getting offensive” about the religion.

She said her views had damaged their friendship, and Smith had become “dismissive of the things myself and my husband practiced”.

Smith had been speaking to a married American Muslim man online, which Ms Duffy did not believe was appropriate.

Shortly after, the pair fell out and Ms Duffy ended contact with her.

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She said: “I just stepped away. It’s not that I lost contact, I stopped contact.”

The court also heard an interview Ms Duffy gave to RTE’s Liveline in March 2019.

In it, Ms Duffy said she was “more than shocked” when she learned that Smith had travelled to Syria.

She said the Smith she knew in the past “genuinely was a really nice girl”.

She added: “What happened to Lisa Smith is a level of brainwashing that we will never be able to comprehend.”

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

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

She had travelled to Syria a number of years ago after she converted to Islam.

’9/11 and radicalisation’

Under cross examination Ms Duffy told defence counsel Michael O’Higgins SC that Ms Smith knew nothing of the fundamentals of Islam when she began coming to the mosque. She denied that she had any role in Ms Smith applying to be allowed to wear the hijab while on duty with the Irish army and denied encouraging Ms Smith to leave the army.
She said she never told Ms Smith that her taxes could be used to fund wars against Muslims or that as a member of the Defence Forces she might have to patrol areas where other Muslims were fighting.
Mr O’Higgins said his client claims that if she was radicalised, Ms Duffy bears some responsibility. Ms Duffy replied: “No, in what way?”
Mr O’Higgins asked if she had discussed wars in which Muslims were involved, the mujahideen in Afghanistan or theories that the Americans knew of the 9/11 plot to fly airplanes into American buildings, but did not prevent it because it suited their longer term political aims.
Ms Duffy said she discussed such issues with Ms Smith because Muslims are regularly asked about those things and need to be able to discuss them. She denied ever suggesting that the US knew in advance about the 9/11 attacks, a theory that she said is “ridiculous”. She said she does not “hold with suicide bombing”, adding: “I don’t agree with anything like that, as a human and as a Muslim. It is wrong.”
She said she did speak to Ms Smith about jihad but added that there is a “spiritual jihad” as opposed to the holy war jihad, which she said does not exist and has not existed for a long time. She said she spoke to Ms Smith about what jihad was in the time of the prophet Muhammad.
Mr O’Higgins said his client believes Ms Duffy took her under her wing and “filled her head full of ideas”.
Ms Duffy responded: “I taught what Islam, the Koran and hadiths and sunnah say. If she has interpreted that in a certain way, I think she interpreted it in the way she wanted to.”
She said she taught Ms Smith only what the scholars say but Ms Smith “rejects a lot of scholars”.
Under re-examination Ms Duffy told Mr Gillane that she never expressed positive views of the 9/11 attacks or of suicide bombings. She described as “stupid” the term “spreading Islam by the sword” but said it appears often on websites and a lot of people bring it up, thinking that Muslims have to use violence.
“It’s rubbish,” she said. “We discussed it, I told her it’s rubbish. I’ve always maintained, as far as what Lisa said, she didn’t have enough knowledge about that sort of thing.”
She said Ms Smith was naive because instead of studying she “blindly followed what was said on the internet”. She added: “I never saw her read a book; it was always what was online.”
She said Ms Smith was vulnerable because before coming into the religion she was heartbroken and was trying “maybe to get back with the man she loved, that if she was a Muslim that maybe he would want her.”
She said she believes a man Ms Smith spoke to on the internet “pulled on her heartstrings a little bit and she went with it. She was vulnerable, her heart was broken, and she was very naive”.
Smith is charged under Section Six of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005 which makes it an offence to join a foreign unlawful organisation.

It is alleged that between October 28, 2015 and December 1, 2019 at a location outside the State, she was a member of a terrorist group styling itself as the Islamic State.

She has also been accused of financing terrorism by sending €800 in assistance by Western Union money transfer to a named individual in 2015.

With reporting by Eoin Reynolds

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