05 Oct 2022

Dundalk woman Lisa Smith watched Isis drowning video before going to Syria, court heard

Dundalk woman Lisa Smith watched Isis drowning video before going to Syria, court heard

Lisa Smith, a former Irish soldier who denies membership of Islamic State, watched a video of men being drowned in a cage by Isis and posted a message to a WhatsApp group saying: "Now I understand why they were drowned. I didn't know the other half of the story," the Special Criminal Court has heard.

In garda interviews Ms Smith said that she was saying she understood why they were drowned but not that she agreed with the drownings.

She described the killings as "barbaric" and "savage" and said the video made her feel "disgusted". 

Ms Smith (39) from Dundalk, Co Louth has pleaded not (NOT) guilty to membership of an unlawful terrorist group, Islamic State, between October 28th, 2015 and December 1st, 2019.

She has also pleaded not (NOT) guilty to financing terrorism by sending €800 in assistance, via a Western Union money transfer, to a named man on May 6th, 2015.

Detective Sergeant Carrie O'Connor told prosecution counsel Sean Gillane SC that she interviewed Ms Smith at Kevin St Garda Station on December 3, 2019.

Ms Smith had been arrested on suspicion of membership of Isis two days earlier at Dublin Airport after flying to Ireland from Syria where she had traveled to join the Muslim caliphate about four years earlier.

Det Sgt O'Connor agreed that gardai put to Ms Smith a series of exchanges from June 24, 2015 between the accused and other Muslims on a WhatsApp group.

The witness said Ms Smith had posted that she had "just seen that Islamic State killed spies by locking them in a cage and drowning them."

She had also seen someone being fired in a rocket. Ms Smith told gardai that she was asking if these things were allowed in Islam.

She said she didn't agree with what was done but some Muslims said it was allowed because it was "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."

She added: "You get bombed you can use the same on that person." 

She was asked to explain why she later posted: "Now I understand why they were drowned. I didn't know the other half of the story. Interesting book."

She said: "I understand why they are telling me it happened but that doesn't mean I agree".

She said she was against all such videos posted by Islamic State at that time, describing them as "brutal and savage".

She added: "I felt disgusted. It's absolutely disgusting and barbaric."

She said she couldn't remember what the book was, but remembered it was something about people drowning in a cage. 

Gardai pointed out that these conversations took place before Ms Smith travelled to Syria in 2015 and asked why would she go if she knew this was the "norm" in Islamic State. Ms Smith said her religion required her to go.

She said videos showing people being drowned in cages or fired from rockets didn't negate that there was a caliphate and as a Muslim she felt obliged to travel there, to make "hijrah".

She said that for women the hijrah is your "jihad" as women are not allowed to fight. She denied repeatedly that she went to Syria to fight.

She said that when she first started living on the outskirts of Raqqa in 2016, about five months after travelling to Syria, she felt safe. She said it was the media that "propagated everything, but on a day-to-day basis you don't see this."

Det Gda O'Connor said that earlier in the same interview Ms Smith said Carol Karimah Duffy, an Irish convert to Islam, had "radicalised" her. 

She said that before she met Ms Duffy at a mosque in Dundalk eight years earlier, she knew nothing about Islam.

Ms Duffy, she said, taught her about Osama bin Laden and told her she had to quit her job with the army because it was "haram" or forbidden by Islam.

She said Ms Duffy had "extreme" and "harsh" views and told her that "everything is haram".

She added: "She is saying I'm a jihadi supporter but the opposite is true."

Ms Smith said she took everything Ms Duffy told her at face value because she had no knowledge of Islam. "She radicalised me," she said. 

When giving her evidence earlier in the trial, Ms Duffy denied teaching radical ideas to Ms Smith. She said that she taught Ms Smith about the Quran but Ms Smith rejected her teachings and interpreted what was said in the way she [Ms Smith] wanted to.

The trial continues in front of Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, with Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge Cormac Dunne in the non-jury court.

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