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06 Oct 2022

No evidence that Lisa Smith joined or funded Isis , her lawyers told the trial

No evidence that Lisa Smith joined or funded Isis , her lawyers told the trial

Lawyers for Lisa Smith have said there is no evidence that the former soldier was a member of Isis or that she funded the terrorist organisation and have asked the Special Criminal Court to dismiss the charges against her.

Michael O'Higgins SC, for Ms Smith, described the prosecution case as "unique and unprecedented" and said they were trying to suggest that by answering her religious obligation to travel to the Islamic State, she was "somehow subsumed" into a terrorist organisation without her knowledge.

Counsel said it is unknown in Irish law for a person to be convicted of an offence without being aware they are committing an offence.

Sean Gillane SC for the prosecution responded that Ms Smith answered the call from Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and became the "life blood" of Isis as a propaganda tool and as a woman who would help to build the Islamic State.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding at the three-judge, non-jury court, will rule on the defence application to have the charges dismissed on Thursday.

Ms Smith (40), from Dundalk, Co Louth, an Islamic convert and former Irish soldier, travelled to Syria after terrorist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called on all Muslims to travel to the Islamic State.

She 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.

Addressing the charge of financing terrorism, Mr O'Higgins said the prosecution must prove that Ms Smith sent the €800 knowing or intending that it would be used for the benefit of Isis.

He said: "There is no evidence which could satisfy the court that Lisa Smith had any awareness that the money would be used for the benefit of that particular group."

He said the evidence suggests that the intended recipient, John Georgelas, was not in Isis controlled Syria in May 2015 when the money was sent.

He said social media posts showed that Georgelas announced that he had moved his family "into the shade of the caliph", or inside Isis territory, in August 2015, three months after Ms Smith attempted to transfer the money.

He said that even if Ms Smith knew that Georgelas was a member of Isis, it is not a criminal offence to send money for his personal use.

Counsel said Ms Smith had a long friendship with Georgelas who was a confidant and a "guiding light" for her.

Counsel pointed out that between 2013 and 2015 Ms Smith made several money transfers, in one case to help a Muslim woman in the Philippines who had been affected by flooding.

Others were to her husband in Tunisia while others were small donations to help Georgelas build his book collection or to help a German Islamic convert with his electricity bill.

He said that Ms Smith knew Georgelas had been injured in Raqqa and understood that the €800 was to be used to buy a scooter to help with his mobility issues.

For the membership charge to be proven, Mr O'Higgins said the evidence must show that Ms Smith wanted to become a member and was accepted by the organisation.

He said the prosecution was trying to dispense with that by saying that if she travelled to the Islamic State and helped to build the state or supported the aims of Isis, then she is "subsumed as a member of that organisation" without intending to join or being accepted.

He said it is unknown in Irish law for a person to be convicted of an offence without being aware they are committing an offence.

He characterized Ms Smith's contributions to online chats with known jihadists as "polite, reasoned, docile and submissive" and said his client did not show any aggression, call for any violence or try to recruit others.

He said she castigated another contributor for suggesting that women could fight for Isis.

He said that if women were allowed to fight, Ms Smith may have been willing, but the evidence shows that when she went to Syria for the first time in 2013 she was "laughed at and told to go to the kitchen".

He said Ms Smith's role in Syria was to be a dutiful wife and to create a home.

Mr O'Higgins questioned why the prosecution hadn't brought a single witness from Raqqa, where Ms Smith lived under Islamic State.

Instead, Mr O'Higgins said the prosecution is relying on the evidence of Dr Florence Gaub, who never set foot in Raqqa, to say what went on there. He said there were hundreds of thousands of people living in Raqqa yet the court "hasn't heard a single witness who could tell you what it was like".

Sean Gillane SC for the DPP responded that he is not making the case that Ms Smith was "subsumed" into Isis without her knowledge.

He said the State's case is that she responded to the call by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Isis, when he called for all Muslims to travel to the Islamic State.

In Irish law, Mr Gillane said membership is belonging or adhering to an organisation and participating in it.

He said participation can be inferred from a person's activities and state of mind.

In this case, he said the court can't ignore that Ms Smith travelled thousands of miles, knowing about the activities of the terrorist organisation that was "up to its neck in blood".

It also can't be ignored, counsel said, that her arrival was facilitated by John Georgelas, an Isis propagandist who is presumed to have died fighting for the terrorists.

Her journey to Syria was in response to the call from al-Baghdadi, who Mr Gillane said had declared that to answer his call was to become a member of Isis.

Counsel said her journey was not a response to a general religious obligation but a specific response to al-Baghdadi's call.

On arrival, Mr Gillane said, she was "embraced by him and his terrorist group".

She entered Isis territory from Turkey "wilfully and in a calculated fashion" and once in Syria lived in Isis accommodation, counsel said.

He questioned Mr O'Higgins's description of Ms Smith as docile, submissive and reasoned on social media, pointing out that on one occasion she said of al-Baghdadi: "He is the Caliph by Allah," called for "unity under one banner" and for Muslims to "fight the enemies''. Those enemies, Mr Gillane said, were the enemies of al-Baghdadi and his terrorist organisation.

Mr Gillane said there was no benign Islamic State that she could have been attempting to join, there was only the terrorist organisation.

Once in Syria, Mr Gilane said the accused was not just "boiling the kettle" but was an "absolutely integral part of the terrorist group because she is not just a woman, she is a western woman who has answered the call."

He said she was vital to al-Baghdadi's narrative because one of the key strategic objectives of the terrorist group was to get people to "cleave to it from abroad, to join and become part of it. You don't have to commit an act of propaganda, you are the propaganda. You become the very life blood of the terrorist group by doing what Lisa Smith did."

Having children also served the group's aim of building a State, Mr Gillane said.

Addressing the financing charge, Mr Gillane said it would be inconceivable that Ms Smith did not know Georgelas was a member of Isis.

By May 2015, Mr Gillane said Georgelas had declared to the world that he was a member of Isis. He had been injured fighting in Syria and Ms Smith said she sent the money "to get him back on his feet".

Mr Gillane said she was helping him to "become operative again" as a member of Isis.

If the court rules against the application to dismiss the charges, Mr O'Higgins indicated he will call one witness before closing speeches begin.

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