A former Irish soldier was jailed for 15 months on Friday for joining the so-called Islamic State (IS) group in Syria, despite pleas for clemency.
Judge Tony Hunt said Lisa Smith, 40, from Dundalk on the east coast of Ireland, was at low risk of re-offending.
But he said the mother of one, a Muslim convert, traveled to Syria with “wide open eyes” and showed no remorse for her actions.
She traveled to IS-held territory and may have been ‘easily led by circumstances and other people’, but showed resilience to stay with IS ‘all the way’ .
Smith, who arrived at Dublin Special Criminal Court wearing a black hijab, was found guilty in May of belonging to the terror group banned between 2015 and 2019.
She is the first person to be convicted in an Irish court for an Islamic terrorism offense committed overseas.
Smith could have faced a maximum sentence of eight years for membership in a banned terrorist organization.
Judge Hunt denied his lawyer’s request for a suspended sentence, but considered his appeal for a low-end prison sentence, noting his good character and previous military service.
But he said her offense was ‘serious nonetheless’ and warranted jail time as a deterrent to others, even though there was no evidence she did more than ally herself with the extremist outfit. .
He refused a request from his legal team to release her on bail pending an appeal.
Smith was acquitted by three judges on a separate charge of financing terrorism by sending 800 euros ($810) to aid the medical treatment of a Syrian man in Turkey.
During her nine-week trial, prosecutors explained how Smith – who was a member of the Irish Defense Force from 2001 to 2011 – traveled to IS territory in 2015 after converting to Islam.
In 2012, she went on a pilgrimage to the Muslim holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia and expressed on an Islamic Facebook page her desire to live under Sharia and die as a martyr.
The court heard she bought a one-way ticket from Dublin to Turkey, crossed the border into Syria and lived in Raqa, the capital of the so-called IS caliphate.
– ‘Appalling’ –
At the time, extremist Islamists ruled large swaths of Syria and Iraq, luring thousands of foreign fighters to their cause before the group’s territorial defeat in the region.
As ISIS lost ground to a US-led coalition on the battlefield and cities under its sway fell, Smith was forced to flee Raqa and then Baghouz, their last remaining stronghold, before to return to Ireland.
She was arrested on arrival at Dublin Airport on December 1, 2019 with her young daughter.
During the pleadings, her lawyer Michael O’Higgins asked that she be spared from prison because she had already served a custodial sentence in Syrian camps.
He spoke of Smith’s acute psychological state, after she was described in expert reports as ‘damaged’ and ‘vulnerable’, highlighting the ‘appalling’ conditions she faced with her young child.
The court heard that Smith was being held in the notorious Al-Hawl and Ain Issa refugee camps in northern Syria as she waited to be sent back to her home in Ireland.
O’Higgins explained how IS members in the camps meted out cruel punishments on other refugees, including, in some cases, setting fire to their tents and killing them in the process.
The defense attorney also asked the court to consider Smith living under a daily 1 p.m. curfew as part of his bail conditions since 2019.
There was no immediate comment after the conviction from Smith’s legal team, but police in Ireland said the ‘complex’ case was the result of cooperation with law enforcement around the world entire.
“This case demonstrates the determination of (the Irish police) to investigate terrorism offenses in accordance with Irish law, wherever they occur,” he said in a statement.