Lisa Smith denied taking part in Syrian fighting in 2019 interview, trial hears

The former Defence Forces soldier, 39, has pleaded not guilty to terror related charges at the Special Criminal Court.

James Ward
Friday 28 January 2022 16:23
Former member of the Defence Forces Lisa Smith (PA)
Former member of the Defence Forces Lisa Smith (PA)

Lisa Smith denied taking part in fighting in Syria and said she did not believe in suicide bombings in an interview in 2019, the Special Criminal Court has heard.

The former Defence Forces soldier, 39, has pleaded not guilty to charges of membership of the illegal organisation Islamic State and providing funds to benefit the group.

On Friday, videos of two interviews she gave to the journalist Norma Costello from camps in Syria in April and July of 2019 were played in the court.

Former member of the Defence Forces Lisa Smith arriving at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

In them, she said she had decided she “had to get out” of Syria after the birth of her daughter.

Smith said she had grown used to “bullets and bombs” during her time living in the so-called Islamic State, but her priorities changed after she became a mother.

She said: “When I had a child, I became different. She is my number one priority. I want to take her home.”

On one occasion a bullet had come in the front door of the home she was staying at, and exploded, while her daughter was standing nearby.

She said: “I was cooking. I don’t know if it was a sniper. The bullet came in the door of her home and exploded.

“My daughter was at the door, it just missed her. I was thinking ‘oh my God’.”

“I decided I had to get out” she said, adding that the Islamic State was full of “corruption and wrongdoing”.

Smith denied that she had used army experience to assist the cause.

“I didn’t do any fighting. I didn’t even own a gun,” she said.

“I think anyone that knows me knows I wouldn’t pick up a weapon and fight.”

The accused also said she did not “believe in suicide attacks”.

Smith said that she did not believe reports of some of the atrocities being carried out by the Islamic State.

“For us that is all not true. Everyone is saying this is not true, made up, they pay the media to lie,” she said.

She said she the Islamic State had failed and she would not join again if it resumed in another part of the world.

“At the end of the day we failed. We thought there was going to be an Islamic State,” she said.

“I don’t know what people came here for. I don’t know why they gave up their lives and came from all over the world.”

The only thing I did was come here. I made a mistake. I can't get out.

Lisa Smith

Smith also said that she did not believe she should face trial when she returned to Ireland and suggested she was “being made and example of” because she was Irish and a member of the Defence Forces.

“I don’t think I should be tried. I have nothing to hide. The only thing I did was come here. I made a mistake. I can’t get out,” she said.

She added: “My biggest mistake was not having patience. I just ran, I ran with the crowd. I wish I hadn’t, I wish I had taken my time.”

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 euro (£670) in assistance via a Western Union money transfer to a named individual in 2015.

The trial resumes at 12.30pm on Monday.

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