09 Aug 2022

Those who travelled in support of Islamic State were members of Isis, Lisa Smith trial told

Those who travelled in support of Islamic State were members of Isis, Lisa Smith trial told

A political scientist who specialises in Middle Eastern conflicts has told the Special Criminal Court trial of Lisa Smith that people who travelled to Isis-controlled Syria and did anything to support the fledgling state were members of a terrorist organisation.

Ms Smith (40), who travelled to Syria after terrorist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called on all Muslims to travel to the Islamic State, denies charges of membership of Isis and of funding terrorism.

Dr Florence Gaub said the Islamic State or caliphate announced by al-Baghdadi was the same thing as the terrorist organisation Isis and that a person became a member of Isis when they joined it "actively with any type of act of support". #

Such support, she said, could be a tweet, sending money, joining Isis-controlled territory or carrying out a terrorist attack. She said that a person does not need to pick up a gun to be a member of the terrorist organisation.

Under cross-examination, Dr Gaub told defence counsel Michael O'Higgins SC  that there have been convictions all over Europe for engineers, school teachers and others who did not take up arms but "reinforced Isis's capacity to carry out its aims."

She said that people who travelled to the Islamic State had a "relationship of reciprocity" with the emerging state that involved duties and rights.

Dr Gaub, who is a director with the European Institute for Security Studies, said Islamic State was a "proto-state" that was looking to establish itself internationally and needed money, people and territory to achieve its aims.

People traveling to its territory were so important to those aims that Isis created a special committee to facilitate new arrivals. Those who travelled were given preferential treatment over native Syrians, she said, and had access to better housing, more food and increased security.

She said people, including those who travelled to work as engineers and teachers, have been convicted of offences all over Europe because they "reinforced Isis's capacity to carry out its aims".

Mr O'Higgins told the three-judge, non-jury court that the defence will argue that the court should not consider Dr Gaub's opinion that those who travelled to the Islamic State and engaged with the machinery of the state were members of Isis. The court will hear submissions on that legal issue tomorrow/today (THU).

Cross examining the witness today (WED) Mr O'Higgins put it to Dr Gaub that terrorism is defined as committing certain offences with the purpose of intimidating a population or a government. He added: "It is different from an engineer designing a bridge or a housewife boiling a kettle."

Dr Gaub replied: "Up to the moment where someone explodes a bomb in a soccer stadium or at a concert or shoots concert-goers in Paris, what do you think happens in preparation? It is everything that makes it possible: financing, propaganda... it is everything that facilitates that movement."

Mr O'Higgins said an engineer looking at a bridge or a housewife boiling a kettle is not connected to the State.

Dr Gaub said Isis needed housewives to provide for the soldiers, women to have babies for the next generation and stories for online propaganda. She asked: "Is one only a terrorist when you perpetrate an attack?"

Mr O'Higgins said: "I'm saying that boiling a kettle or designing a bridge doesn't have that connection."

She replied: "I disagree. There are convictions all over Europe for engineers and school teachers who reinforced Isis's capacity to carry out its aims."

She described citizenship as a "relationship of reciprocity" that carries rights and duties.

Those who travelled to Syria following al-Baghdadi's call were taken care of, given better housing than the native Syrians, better food and put in safer places.

She said: "That is a relationship and it's not just boiling a kettle."

The witness agreed that she has never spoken to anyone who travelled to Islamic State but said she is an expert on the academic literature.

She agreed that many women went to Islamic State for religious reasons, to be good Muslims and live among other Muslims under Sharia law.

However, she said the majority of people did not travel for religious reasons. "It was belonging, community, adventure; religion played a role but it is a factor among others."

She agreed that al-Baghdadi presented it as a religious obligation and said that those who did not travel would face hellfire.

Mr O'Higgins asked if a person traveling out of fear of hellfire would automatically be considered a member of Isis. The witness replied: "As I said, Islamic State considers if you follow that call, you have special status in the State."

She said that anyone who heeded the call and received housing, food and other benefits from Islamic State was a member of a terrorist organisation.

She said Muslims could have travelled to other Muslim majority countries if they wanted to live among Muslims.

Women in the Islamic State, she said, contributed by doing unpaid work such as keeping the household, being a wife, giving birth to future fighters and providing stories that could be used as propaganda.

Mr O'Higgins suggested those babies would not become fighters for 18 years. Dr Gaub replied: "You have not seen the videos I have of children executing adults."

Dr Gaub said there are a number of academic articles that affirm her view that joining the Islamic State and joining Isis are the same thing. Mr O'Higgins asked that the witness or the prosecution produce any other articles that affirm the view put forward by Dr Gaub.

Mr O'Higgins read from a European Union directive calling on member states to legislate for offences relating to people who travel abroad to join or support terrorist organisations.

He said the directive contains a "sophisticated" codification of such offences which cannot be reduced to Dr Gaub's definition that "if you go there and are part of the machinery of the state, you are a member."

Dr Gaub replied: "It is two different worlds; the world of politics and the world of law are adjacent but they are not the same."

The trial continues in front of Mr Justice Tony Hunt with Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge Cormac Dunne.

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