Ex-Irish soldier who fled to Syria jailed for 15 months for ISIS membership

22 July 2022, 14:23 | Updated: 22 July 2022, 15:23

Former Irish soldier was sentenced after being found guilty of ISIS membership
Former Irish soldier was sentenced after being found guilty of ISIS membership. Picture: Alamy

By Seán Hickey

A 40-year-old Irish woman has been sentenced to 15 months in prison for fleeing to Syria to join ISIS.

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Lisa Smith, a former member of the Irish Defence Forces, was today sentenced to 15 months her membership of the terrorist group.

Ms Smith appeared in court on Friday morning after being found guilty of membership of the so-called Islamic State terror group in May.

The former soldier was due to be sentenced in early July but the court was adjourned until today.

The Special Criminal Court in Dublin found the former soldier guilty of membership of a terrorist organisation, but not guilty of financing terrorism.

Read more: Isis ‘Beatle’ Alexanda Kotey jailed for life for role in killing of hostages

Irish woman found guilty of IS membership arrives at court

Passing sentence on Friday, presiding judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt said Smith, from Co Louth, had "aligned herself" to a foreign terrorist organisation, which he described as "serious" for an Irish citizen.

He acknowledged that the evidence showed she had "followed rather than led", adding: "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."

Ms Smith was cleared of financing terrorism by the non-jury court of three judges in the same hearing, after she made an €800 payment to an injured ISIS fighter via a Western Union account.

The payment was deemed as a humanitarian or charitable payment rather than an attempt to finance the terror group.

Read more: Ex-pub landlord accused of sending Covid loans to fund Isis in Syria

The native of Dundalk became the first person in Ireland to be convicted of membership of a terrorist group operating outside the state.

The Presiding judge, Justice Tony Hunt said that Ms Smith's decision to travel to Syria in 2015 was her own and she was not pressured into the decision. He also dismissed any plea of naivety on the part of Ms Smith, given the ex-soldier had viewed ISIS materials online and was therefore particularly well informed about what her relocation to Syria would involve.

Ex-Irish soldier Lisa Smith arrives at court in Dublin

Under the Offences Against The State Act, Ms Smith faced eight years in prison and an unlimited fine.

The judge said he is satisfied that she is not likely to reoffend and that her focus is now on her daughter.

Describing the trial as "novel", he added: "There is no basis that she is a source of present danger."

He said the judges had accepted that life in the Syrian camps was "arduous" and the "equivalent" of being in prison, and that they had given a "substantial" discount off Smith's sentence because of this.

Ms Smith was arrested in Dublin airport in 2019 after arriving with her two-year-old daughter from a Syrian displacement camp.

The former soldier left the Irish Defence Forces in 2011 and later travelled to Syria, where she married a British man who took part in ISIS armed patrols in the country.

During her time in the Irish Defence Forces, Ms Smith had been in the company of Irish government ministers and then-Irish president Mary McAleese on the government jet.

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