A former Irish soldier was convicted of belonging to the so-called Islamic State (IS) terror group.
Lisa Smith, a former member of the Defence Forces, was acquitted of a separate charge of financing terrorism following a nine-week trial at Dublin’s non-jury Special Criminal Court.
Smith, a Muslim convert, traveled to Syria after terrorist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi encouraged Muslims to visit the country.
The woman from Co Louth had pleaded not guilty to charges of IS membership and providing funds to the group.
Smith, from Dundalk, wiped away tears as Judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt read out the three-judge court’s guilty verdict on Monday.
She was granted bail prior to her sentencing. Justice Hunt acquitted her of financing terrorism because it could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that when she sent 800 euros to a man in 2015, it was specifically for the purpose of supporting the IS group.
In his decision on Monday, Justice Hunt, a member of the three-judge, non-jury court, stated that there was “sufficient ambiguity” over why the money was sent, emphasizing that it could have been for charitable or humanitarian reasons.
The judge went through the lengthy case’s detailed evidence and stated that the prosecution had established beyond reasonable doubt that Ms Smith joined IS when she crossed the border into Syria in October 2015. He told the court that Ms Smith’s online communications with various people demonstrated that “her eyes were wide open” to the situation in the country she “fervently wished” to return to.
According to the court, she went to Syria after terrorist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called on all Muslims to go to the so-called Islamic State.
According to Justice Hunt, Ms Smith pledged allegiance to the organization led by al-Baghdadi despite knowing it was illegal and not conventional or religious.
Justice Hunt also stated that her decision to travel to Syria for religious or religious beliefs was “irrelevant,” because holding a religious belief, “however sincerely held,” is not a defense if the conduct is criminal.
He also stated that supporters of the IS caliphate were “very isolated” and were not accepted by Muslims, and that Muslims were generally repulsed by the group’s use of violence to impose their ideology.
According to him, Ms Smith’s devotion to IS was clear from her social media interactions and comments, and she traveled to the Syrian border with a one-way ticket.
“In her circumstances, armed with her extensive prior knowledge and experience, Ms Smith effectively took up membership of the Islamic State when she crossed the border from Turkey in 2015 and took up residence in Syria under the aegis of the Islamic State organization, and she did nothing thereafter to indicate that she had ceased to adhere to it,” Justice Hunt wrote.
He stated that context “was everything,” and that the court considered subsequent events.
The court also rejected her claim that she went to Syria to hasten her marriage or because she was under duress.
A witness testified that Ms Smith was “excited and enthused” about going to Syria, which the court accepted.
He stated that she was under no pressure to travel, that she was interested in martyrdom, and that she rejected her former husband’s and family’s requests that she not travel to Syria.
The court was also told that Ms Smith was aware of what was going on in Syria, that she had conducted research and had extensive knowledge of what awaited her there.
He stated that she was particularly interested in living in the Islamic State and under Sharia law.
He also stated that she made the decision to relocate because she was well informed about the terrorist organization and was “fully aware” of the specific techniques used to enforce the laws under which she desired to live.
He rejected the possibility that her conduct “simply amounted to innocent nation building” arising as a matter of religious belief or compulsion.
The former soldier was bailed ahead of a sentencing hearing on Monday July 11.