Former Irish soldier Lisa Smith sentenced to jail for joining ISIS

The court heard the Irish woman's eyes were 'wide open' when she travelled to Syria

Former Irish soldier Lisa Smith, 40, arrives for sentencing at the court in Dublin, after she was found guilty of joining ISIS. PA
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A former Irish soldier was sentenced on Friday to 15 months in prison for being a member of ISIS.

Judge Tony Hunt said Lisa Smith, who served as a member of the Irish Defence Forces from 2001 to 2011, was a low risk for reoffending but had shown no remorse for her actions in joining the terrorist group. He had said earlier that she travelled "with her eyes wide open".

The mother of one, 40, was found guilty in May of membership of the extremist ISIS group but was acquitted of a separate charge of financing terrorism after a nine-week trial at Dublin’s non-jury Special Criminal Court.

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 court was told that she bought a one-way ticket from Dublin to Turkey, crossed the border into Syria and lived in Raqqa, the capital of the self-styled ISIS caliphate.

As ISIS lost ground on the battlefield and towns and cities under its sway fell, Smith was forced to flee Raqqa and then Baghouz, the group's last stronghold, before returning to Ireland.

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

In 2012, Smith, from Dundalk, had expressed a desire on an Islamist Facebook page to live under the group's hardline interpretation of Sharia and "to die a martyr".

She pleaded not guilty to charges of membership of ISIS and providing funds to benefit the group.

Passing sentence on Friday, Mr Justice Hunt said the judges in the case had taken into consideration her previous “good character” and the fact that she had made a “contribution to society” during her military service.

He also said she had had a “tough time in Syria” but that it was a “foreseeable consequence” of joining ISIS.

Describing the trial as “novel”, he went on: “There is no basis that she is a source of present danger.”

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

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

During the hearing, lawyer Michael O’Higgins argued that the state of Smith’s marriage to a man, who the prosecution said was a member of ISIS while in Syria, was “a very relevant factor in mitigation”.

Mr 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 Al Hol camp, which houses families of members of ISIS, from February to mid-April in an “undercurrent of fear”, with guards patrolling the area and “dogs let out at night”.

Her barrister said that if those two arguments were 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 Mr Justice Tony Hunt on May 30.

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 ISIS.

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

Justice Hunt said Smith pledged allegiance to the organisation which Al Baghdadi headed up and that she knew the organisation was unlawful, and that it was not conventional or religious.

Updated: July 22, 2022, 12:23 PM