Former Irish soldier, Lisa Smith, believed she would ‘burn for eternity in hell’ if she did not join the caliphate she believed was being established in Syria in 2015, the Special Criminal Court in Dublin heard today.
Ms Smith is on trial accused of membership of the unlawful terrorist group, Islamic State between October 28th, 2015 and December 1st, 2019, She is also charged with financing terrorism by sending €800 to a named man on May 6th, 2015.
She denies both charges.
Ms Smith previously served in the Irish Army, and Tania Joya, a witness who knew her when she first travelled to Turkey and Syria in 2013, told the court last week that the Dundalk woman “threw her life away to go and join a violent extremist ideology”.
The former soldier told the court she now believes she made a “mistake” in going to Syria in 2015 but believed at the time that “it was just a state” where she would be able to raise a family among followers of Islam.
She said she would not go again if another caliphate were announced.
She told gardai:”I had enough, I did my time. It was a prison. It was four years in prison, that’s the way we look at it now,” Ms Smith told gardaí.
Ms Smith said she never owned a weapon while she was in Syria, was never a member of a terrorist organisation and did not give assistance to any terrorist organisation.
“I don’t support terrorism and I don’t support brutality in any way. I want to make it clear, I didn’t join a terrorist organisation and would never join a terrorist organisation,” she said. “I don’t support brutality. What they did in the end; I would never support that in any shape or form.”
She claimed that, before leaving for Syria, she was so afraid of burning in hell that if she saw a fire she would start screaming. “I had a lot of fear about the hellfire at the time. That scared me so much I said; I have to go, I have to go.”
Det Garda Ciaran McGeough told the court that he interviewed Ms Smith at Kevin Street Garda station eleven times after she had been arrested following her return to Ireland on December 1st, 2019.
Ms Smith told him, he said, that the people who travelled to Syria and Iraq to join the caliphate thought they were escaping to a place where they would not be insulted in the street – but they found a “nightmare” there instead.
She claimed that she and many others were taken in by “propaganda” from Islamic State.
“I didn’t know all this information before I went, I think the problem was everyone got excited and just ran, they didn’t wait to see if it would be stable, they just went ‘caliphate, caliphate’, and gone, nobody had a brain, nobody had information. It’s just done, we made our mistakes so what can you do?”
Under pressure from John Georgelas, an American convert to Islam, Ms Smith married a Pakistani-British Muslim, who worked as a teacher in Raqqa. He beat her quite badly on six occasions. She became pregnant and her her child was born in June 2017
The trial continues.