Friday, January 28, 2022

By James Ward, PA

Former Defence Forces soldier Lisa Smith was proposed to by a man she lived with in Syria who produced propaganda for the Islamic State, her trial has heard.

The Co Louth woman, 39, has pleaded not guilty to charges of membership of the illegal organisation and providing funds to benefit the group.

The Special Criminal Court has heard that the accused met with John Georgealis, an American convert to Islam, and his then wife Tanya Joya, in Turkey in 2013 before travelling to Syria.

Ms Smith rejected the proposal but married another man who was a member of Al Qaida, with whom she became pregnant twice in six months, the court heard on Friday.

Lisa Smith Trial
Lisa Smith, accused of terrorism offences, arrives at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

Ms Joya, giving evidence, told the court she did not believe the proposal happened when it was put to her by Michael O’Higgins SC, for the defence, during cross-examination.

Mr Higgins said: “Are you aware he asked Lisa to marry him?”

She replied: “No, and I don’t believe that happened.”

Mr O’Higgins said there was evidence to show that Georgealis – also known as Abu Hassan – had proposed and that Smith had rejected it.

Asked why she did not believe it, Ms Joya said: “John told me she had slept around with so many guys there was no possibility that he would be interested in her.”

The court was told Georgealis, who was considered an academic and produced a number of scholarly articles on Islam, had also worked on magazines which Ms Joya described as “Isis propaganda.”

He also wrote academic papers advocating for the use of cannabis and magic mushrooms in Islam, the court heard.

Ms Joya said he was “clever, manipulative and overwhelms people with scripture.”

Mr O’Higgins put it to Ms Joya that there was a “rapport” between Georgealis and Smith, and that she had previously told the court she “wanted to drive a wedge between them.”

She replied: “I needed to. I didn’t want to go to Syria and I didn’t need her encouraging John.”

She added: “She (Smith) married the first person she came across.

“She liked Arabs, I think, because they had this lust and craziness for white women. She didn’t get that from her own people and she enjoyed it.”

Smith had joined the pair in Turkey after connecting on the Facebook group We Hear, We Obey, which Georgealis had set up to support the Caliphate – the establishment of a Muslim state.

Ms Joya told the court Smith said she wanted to use her army training to fight in Syria.

“Lisa said she would fight. She wanted to go to Syria and fight,” she said.

“She said she had training from the army and she would use that training to help the Syrians.”

Mr O’Higgins put it to her that there was no role for women in fighting and Smith was laughed at for suggesting she would.

Ms Joya replied: “That wasn’t true. We know women did participate in helping to strap bombs, suicide jackets. We know Al Qaida used women in suicide bombs.”

She told the court Smith was attracted to Islam because she was an outsider.

She said: “Lisa Marie is a born Westerner and had all the liberties that I didn’t have.

“She threw it away because she was rejected by her people, in my view. She was offered a clean slate if she converted to Islam.

“Islam is attractive if you have low self-esteem and hate.”

She said Smith had thrown her life away “to go and join a violent extremist group.”

This assertion was challenged by Mr O’Higgins, with Ms Joya replying: “I know she did.”

Ms Joya said Georgealis and Smith “looked out for each other because they were both white converts.”

Mr O’Higgins put it to Ms Joya that she had once been radicalised, and it had taken her some time before she had left Georgealis and Islam.

 

“You had several moments in your journey, it took a long time for change to occur,” he said.

He cited a number of incidents he described as “lightbulb moments”, including an instance where one of her children had walked into a room holding a grenade.

“I raised my first son for the purpose of being a militant and a jihadist,” Ms Joya said, but ultimately, she said, decided she didn’t want her children to be on the frontline.

Mr O’Higgins said she was “raising her children as warriors to kill and be killed,” and that this was a “good example of the thought process that occurs when you live in the bubble.”

He added: “My point is: in these instances it takes time for the bubble to burst.”

Mr O’Higgins asked if Ms Joya had been aware that Georgealis later married a 14-year-old girl, though the marriage had not been consummated.

Ms Joya said she did not know that, adding that she found it “disgusting.”

The case received widespread attention when it emerged that Smith, a former Air Corps soldier who had worked on the Government jet, had been detained in Syria over alleged links to IS.

Smith was arrested at Dublin Airport in 2019 on suspicion of terrorist offences after returning from Turkey in November with her young daughter.

She had travelled to Syria a number of years earlier after converting to Islam.

Lisa Smith court case
Former member of the Defence Forces Lisa Smith arriving at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin where she is facing terror-related charges (Niall Carson/PA)

Smith is charged under Section Six of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005, which makes it an offence to join a foreign unlawful organisation.

It is alleged that, between October 28th, 2015 and December 1st, 2019 at a location outside the State, she was a member of a terrorist group styling itself as the Islamic State.

She has also been accused of financing terrorism by sending €800 in assistance via a Western Union money transfer to a named individual in 2015.

The trial will resume at 10.30am on Friday.

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