Lisa Smith was drawn to ‘harsh end of Islam’, former friend tells court

Ex-Defence Forces member has pleaded not guilty to membership of Islamic State

Carol Karimah Duffy at the Special Criminal Court on Wednesday where she gave evidence in the trial of Lisa Smith. Photograph: Collins Courts

Carol Karimah Duffy at the Special Criminal Court on Wednesday where she gave evidence in the trial of Lisa Smith. Photograph: Collins Courts


An Irish Muslim woman who introduced Lisa Smith to a Dundalk mosque said the former Defence Forces member spoke about the justifications for suicide bombings and was more interested in the “harsh end of Islam”, a court has heard.

Carol Karimah Duffy told the Special Criminal Court, where Ms Smith is on trial accused of membership of Islamic State, that the accused spoke of jihad or holy war and wanted to find a husband who would die “shahid” as a Muslim martyr. She said Ms Smith made other women in the mosque uncomfortable and some of them thought she was a “plant”.

The witness also told the trial that Ms Smith was “naive” because instead of studying, she “blindly followed what was said on the internet”. She added: “I never saw her read a book; it was always what was online.”

Ms Smith (39) from Dundalk, Co Louth has pleaded not guilty to membership of an unlawful terrorist group, Islamic State, between October 28th, 2015 and December 1st, 2019. She has also pleaded not guilty to financing terrorism by sending €800 in assistance, via a Western Union money transfer, to a named man on May 6th, 2015.

Ms Duffy told prosecution counsel Sean Gillane SC that she knew Ms Smith and her family as they had all grown up in Dundalk. Ms Duffy converted to Islam in 2001, married an Algerian man and became a teacher for other Muslim women at a mosque in Dundalk.

In 2010 she was told of an Irish woman who wanted to convert to Islam so she went to the mosque and discovered it was Ms Smith, who she had known years earlier. They were both surprised, she said, but they spoke about her conversion and what it was like to be a Muslim in Ireland.

Ms Duffy asked the accused to come to classes to learn from the Koran, the hadiths and the sunnah, but she said Ms Smith did not come to the classes often. She added: “I was trying to teach her the fundamentals of Islam, but it didn’t go very well. When she came the women didn’t take very well to her.”

She said the other women thought Ms Smith was a “plant” and weren’t comfortable with what she was saying. She added: “The parts that interested her were not so much Islamic but more political, politicised Islam, what we should be wearing, saying, doing, who we should be interacting with, more the harsh end of Islam.”

Lisa Smith, from Dundalk, Co. Louth, at the Special Criminal Court on Wednesday where her trial continues. Photograph: Collins Courts
Lisa Smith, from Dundalk, Co. Louth, at the Special Criminal Court on Wednesday where her trial continues. Photograph: Collins Courts

She said there was a lot of talk at that time about jihad and suicide bombings and Ms Smith talked a lot about justifying why the suicide bombings were happening. She added: “In other words, we were being attacked so we were attacking back, it was us and them.”

‘Martyr husband’

Polygamy was also “a big thing” for Ms Smith, the witness said. She added: “I explained to her how hard, how polygamy has its benefits but also its downfalls. And then there was talk of jihad and it was her version of jihad, which would have been the holy war jihad.”

She said Ms Smith mentioned that she wanted a husband who would be “shahid”, or would die a martyr to the religion. She said Ms Smith talked about how important it is to “push your husband for shahid”.

Shortly after Ms Smith’s conversion, she had to move out of her apartment and started living with Ms Duffy.

Ms Smith met a Muslim friend of Ms Duffy’s husband and decided she would marry him. Ms Duffy said she warned Ms Smith that it was “way too soon” but the marriage went ahead anyway. It lasted a couple of weeks, Ms Duffy said, and ended because Ms Smith felt her husband wasn’t religious enough.

Later Ms Smith began speaking to people online and became withdrawn. She said the things Ms Smith spoke about didn’t interest the other Muslims in the group and she was becoming more argumentative and even offensive. “The friendship started going, I just couldn’t listen to her,” Ms Duffy said.

Ms Smith moved out and Ms Duffy didn’t contact her again.

She heard of Lisa Smith again in 2019 when the Irish media reported that she was being held in a camp in Syria.

Cross examination

Under cross examination Ms Duffy told defence counsel Michael O’Higgins SC that Ms Smith knew nothing of the fundamentals of Islam when she began coming to the mosque.

Mr O’Higgins said his client claims that if she was radicalised, Ms Duffy bears some responsibility. Ms Duffy replied: “No, in what way?”

Mr O’Higgins asked if she had discussed wars in which Muslims were involved, the mujahideen in Afghanistan or theories that the Americans knew of the 9/11 plot to fly aeroplanes into American buildings, but did not prevent it because it suited their longer term political aims.

Ms Duffy said she discussed such issues with Ms Smith because Muslims were regularly asked about those things and need to be able to discuss them. She denied ever suggesting that the US knew in advance about the 9/11 attacks, a theory that she said is “ridiculous”. She said she does not “hold with suicide bombing”, adding: “I don’t agree with anything like that, as a human and as a Muslim. It is wrong.”

She said she did speak to Ms Smith about jihad but added that there is a “spiritual jihad” as opposed to the holy war jihad, which she said does not exist and has not existed for a long time. She said she spoke to Ms Smith about what jihad was in the time of the prophet Muhammad.

Mr O’Higgins said his client believes Ms Duffy took her under her wing and “filled her head full of ideas”.

Ms Duffy responded: “I taught what Islam, the Koran and hadiths and sunnah say. If she has interpreted that in a certain way, I think she interpreted it in the way she wanted to.”

Under re-examination, Ms Duffy told Mr Gillane that she never expressed positive views of the 9/11 attacks or of suicide bombings.

She said Ms Smith was naive because instead of studying she “blindly followed what was said on the internet”.

She said Ms Smith was vulnerable because before coming into the religion she was heartbroken and was trying “maybe to get back with the man she loved, that if she was a Muslim that maybe he would want her.” She said she believes a man Ms Smith spoke to on the internet “pulled on her heartstrings a little bit and she went with it. She was vulnerable, her heart was broken, and she was very naive”.

The trial continues tomorrow before Mr Justice Tony Hunt presiding, with Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge Cormac Dunne at the three-judge, non-jury court.