FORMER DEFENSE FORCE soldier Lisa Smith focused on the ‘brutal end of Islam’ and tried to justify suicide bombings, the Special Criminal Court has heard.
The 39-year-old, from Co Louth, has pleaded not guilty to charges of being a member of the illegal Islamic State organization and providing funds to benefit the group.
On the second day of his trial, the court heard Smith frequently discuss jihad and “justify why suicide bombings were happening”, finding that “we were under attack, therefore we were fighting back”.
Giving evidence today, Carol ‘Karimah’ Duffy, of the Dundalk Muslim Community Mosque, told the court she was called to speak with Smith after his decision to convert to Islam.
Ms Duffy, who had known Smith since childhood, said she had warned her that it was ‘very difficult’ to become a Muslim, that it would be difficult to explain to her family and that she would face abuse if she turned was converting.
Smith’s response was “It’ll be fine,” the court heard.
As an Irish Muslim, Ms Duffy was invited to work with Smith and invited her to a ‘learning circle’.
She told the court that Smith “didn’t attend very often” and that classes “didn’t go very well.”
There were a number of conversations between Smith and the other members of the learning circle that the other women “didn’t take very well”, Ms Duffy told the court.
Smith’s interest in religion was “more political, not so much Islamic,” she said.
She said Smith used to judge others because of what they wore or who they talked to.
“She was more interested in the harsh end of Islam,” Ms Duffy said.
Ms. Duffy said that at that time, around 2011, there was a lot of talk about al-Qaeda.
She said Smith engaged in “a lot of talk about jihad, about suicide bombings” and “justifying why suicide bombings happen”, and that her take was “we were under attack, so we were fighting back”.
Smith’s version of Islam was about “holy war and jihad”, Ms Duffy said.
She added: “Nowadays there is no holy war, our version of jihad is not that.”
Ms Duffy said Smith also frequently discussed the situation in Chechnya and was a firm believer in the “Shahid”, an honor given to those who become martyrs in the name of Islam.
“She thought it was important to push your husband to become Shahid,” Ms Duffy told the court. “Some think if your husband dies Shahid, that’s the most honorable way to die.”
Ms Duffy said that after 2011 Smith discussed religion with people online and became “more withdrawn”.
She said Smith has become “more argumentative” about Islam and “about the things we do as Muslims.”
Ms Duffy said at one point that Smith “got offensive” about religion.
She said his views damaged their friendship and Smith became “dismissive of the things that me and my husband practiced”.
Smith had spoken online to a married American Muslim, which Ms. Duffy did not believe was appropriate.
Shortly after, the couple had a falling out and Ms Duffy ended all contact with her.
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She said: “I just walked away. It’s not that I lost contact, I stopped contact.
The court also heard an interview Ms Duffy gave to RTE’s Liveline in March 2019.
In it, Ms Duffy said she was “beyond shocked” when she learned Smith had traveled to Syria.
She said the Smith she knew in the past “was a really, really nice girl.”
She added: “What happened to Lisa Smith is a level of brainwashing that we will never be able to understand.”
The case received wide attention in 2019 when it emerged that Smith, a former Air Corps soldier who had worked on the government plane, had been detained in Syria for alleged links to ISIS.
Smith was arrested at Dublin Airport in 2019 on suspicion of terrorism offenses after returning from Turkey in November with her young daughter.
She had traveled to Syria a few years ago after converting to Islam.
Smith is charged under Section Six of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offenses) Act 2005 which makes it an offense to join an illegal foreign organisation.
It is alleged that between October 28, 2015 and December 1, 2019 at a location outside the state, she was a member of a terrorist group posing as the Islamic State.
She was also accused of financing terrorism by sending €800 in aid via Western Union money transfer to a named person in 2015.