Former Irish soldier Lisa Smith has been found guilty of being a member of the illegal Islamic State terrorist group.
She was acquitted of a charge of financing terrorism by sending money to a man in May 2015 to benefit ISIS.
Smith, a convert to Islam, traveled to Syria after terrorist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called on Muslims to surrender to Islamic State.
The 40-year-old has pleaded not guilty to being a member of the group between October 28, 2015 and December 1, 2019.
The prosecution alleged that she answered al-Baghdadi’s call and became the ‘lifeblood’ of Isis as a propaganda tool and as a woman who would help build the Islamic State .
Attorney General Sean Gillane said she wrapped herself in the black flag of ISIS.
He said the court could not ignore that Smith had traveled thousands of miles, aware of the activities of the terrorist organization which was “up to his neck in blood”.
He said there was no benign Islamic State she could have tried to join, there was only the terrorist organization.
Her lawyers had described the case against her as unique and unprecedented and said there was no evidence that she was a member of the group.
Defense barrister Michael O’Higgins said the prosecution had failed to show that Ms Smith wanted to join ISIS and had been accepted by the organisation.
It was not enough to say that she had surrendered to the Islamic State and had been “integrated” into the organization.
He said it was unknown in Irish law for a person to be convicted of an offense without being aware they were committing an offence.
He said she went to Syria to be a devoted wife and create a home.
In the court’s verdict, Judge Hunt said the court decided that the question of religion, religious belief or religious compulsion was not relevant.
He said it was no defense for a person to say they had committed a crime because of a religious belief, even if they were sincere.
He said the belief that adherence to Islam required surrendering to the Islamic State caliphate was reserved for al-Baghdadi supporters and was far from accepted by Muslims in general, who were repelled by the violent and intolerant nature of the group.
Judge Hunt said the main and most important aspect of the circumstantial evidence against Smith was his trip to Syria in October 2015.
He said context was everything and the court considered prior issues and subsequent events.
The judge said Smith did not make his decisions under pressure from anyone else.
He said that before going to Syria, she had done extensive research and investigation and knew what awaited her at her destination.
He said she had watched propaganda videos showing extreme and terrifying acts of violence.
She was particularly well informed about the organization that reigned where she decided to live.
She knew she was not just subscribing to life under Sharia – but to a regime that had specific techniques for enforcing that law.
He said there was no room for pleas of naivety or ignorance at the time she traveled to Syria. His eyes were wide open, he said.
Smith also denied sending €800 via Western Union money transfer to a man in May 2015, knowing or intending it would be used to benefit ISIS.
Giving the court’s verdict on that charge, the judge said the court could not rule out a reasonable possibility that Smith was motivated primarily by charitable or humanitarian considerations when she sent the money and that intent was at stake.
There was enough ambiguity to provide a reasonable doubt, the judge said, and the court was not satisfied that the prosecution had proven the necessary intent and ordered a verdict of not guilty on that charge.
Smith was a member of the Irish Defense Force from 2001 to 2011.
She asked for her release, the court heard, because of inconsistencies between her faith and her role in the military.
In particular, she had been refused a request for authorization to wear the hijab.
In October 2015, she bought a one-way ticket, traveled from Dublin to Turkey and crossed the border into an IS-controlled area in Syria.
The judge said the purpose of Smith’s trip to Syria was to consummate his budding relationship with the Islamic State.
Smith was crying when the guilty verdict was announced.
She was released on bail ahead of the sentencing hearing on July 11.