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Ex-Irish Soldier Accused of Islamic State Membership Goes on Trial


FILE - Former Irish soldier Lisa Smith arrives to attend her court hearing at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin, Ireland, Jan. 8, 2020.

A former Irish army soldier went on trial Tuesday in Dublin, accused of being a member of the so-called Islamic State group in Syria.

Lisa Smith, 39, from Dundalk, on Ireland's east coast, has pleaded not guilty to membership in an unlawful terrorist group between October 28, 2015, and December 1, 2019.

She has also denied funding terrorism by sending $900 to aid medical treatment for a Syrian man in Turkey.

But prosecutor Sean Gillane said Smith had "enveloped herself in the black flag of ISIS" in response to a call to arms from the group's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

In doing so, she had "self-identified" as a member of the proscribed group, he told three judges at the Special Criminal Court in the Irish capital.

Gillane said Smith was a member of the Irish Defense Forces from 2001 to 2011 but applied to leave after converting to Islam.

Smith, said by one witness to have had a difficult upbringing with a violent, alcoholic father, had applied unsuccessfully for the right to wear a hijab.

In 2012, she went on pilgrimage to Mecca, and on an Islamic Facebook page expressed a desire to live under Islamic law and to die a martyr.

Smith moved to IS-controlled territory in October 2015 after buying a one-way ticket from Dublin to Turkey, and from there crossing the border to Syria.

The court was told she lived in Raqqa, the capital of Baghdadi's self-styled caliphate, and unsuccessfully attempted to get her husband to join her.

He refused and she divorced him in 2016. Some months later, she married a U.K. national who had moved to Syria and been involved in patrols on the Iraq border.

When Raqqa fell to allied forces in 2018, she moved to Baghouz, the group's last remaining stronghold.

After that too fell in March 2019, she eventually returned to Ireland and was arrested on arrival with her young daughter at Dublin airport on December 1.

Gillane said the judges had to consider Smith's conversations, state of mind and statements, arguing that her IS membership could be inferred from her conduct.

Moving to IS-controlled territory "is a central act of allegiance … an act without which the terrorist government cannot survive," he added.

Smith, described by one witness as "naive and easily taken in" who may have been "looking for a sense of belonging" in Islam, was "running with ISIS, not running away," Gillane said.

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