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Former Irish soldier to be sentenced for Islamic State membership

Former Irish soldier Lisa Smith, 40, is due before the Special Criminal Court in Dublin for sentencing after she was found guilty of membership of the so-called Islamic State terror group (Niall Carson/PA)
Former Irish soldier Lisa Smith, 40, is due before the Special Criminal Court in Dublin for sentencing after she was found guilty of membership of the so-called Islamic State terror group (Niall Carson/PA)

A former Irish soldier found guilty of being a member of the so-called Islamic State (IS) is due to appear before a Dublin court on Friday for sentencing.

Ex-Defence Forces member Lisa Smith, 40, was found guilty in May of membership of the IS terror group but was acquitted of a separate charge of financing terrorism after a nine-week trial at Dublin’s non-jury Special Criminal Court.

Smith, a convert to Islam, went to Syria in 2015 after terrorist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called on Muslims to travel to the country.

The Co Louth woman had pleaded not guilty to charges of membership of IS and providing funds to benefit the group.

Lisa Smith court case
Former Irish soldier Lisa Smith, 40, is due to be sentenced (Niall Carson/PA)

She was granted bail ahead of sentencing.

Smith, from Dundalk, was described in court earlier this month as an “extremely vulnerable person” who was “treated like a servant” by her late husband when in Syria.

The details emerged during a sentencing hearing on July 11 as her barrister argued that the former soldier should receive a suspended sentence.

During the hearing, barrister Michael O’Higgins SC argued that the state of Ms Smith’s marriage to a man, who the prosecution has claimed was a member of IS while in Syria, is “a very relevant factor in mitigation”.

Mr O’Higgins said that conditions endured by Ms Smith in a Syrian camp, combined with the strict bail conditions imposed on her for two-and-a-half years in Ireland, meant that a suspended sentence was warranted.

The court heard that after leaving Baghuz, Ms Smith stayed at the Al Hawl camp from February to mid-April in an “undercurrent of fear”, with guards patrolling the area and “dogs let out at night”.

Her barrister argued that if those two arguments are not accepted, there should be a sentence on the “lower end”, particularly considering Ms Smith’s child and “all of the very unusual circumstances”.

The verdict in the case was read out by Mr Justice Tony Hunt on May 30.

In his judgment Justice Hunt, who sat as part of the three-judge court, acquitted her of the financing terrorism charge, saying it could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt that when she sent 800 euro to a man in 2015 it was specifically for the purpose of supporting the IS group.

But the judge said the prosecution had established beyond reasonable doubt that Ms Smith took up membership of IS when she crossed the border into Syria in October 2015.

He told the court that Ms Smith’s online communications with various people showed that “her eyes were wide open” to the situation in the land to which she “fervently wished” to return.

Justice Hunt said Ms Smith pledged allegiance to the organisation which al-Baghdadi headed up and that she knew the organisation was unlawful, and that it was not conventional or religious.