Lisa Smith is under investigation for terror offences, Garda confirms

Dundalk woman who travelled to join Islamic State is currently held in Syria

Dundalk woman Lisa Smith. File photograph: BBC screengrab

Dundalk woman Lisa Smith. File photograph: BBC screengrab

 

The Garda has confirmed Dundalk woman Lisa Smith is under criminal investigation for terrorist offences and will be questioned if she returns to Ireland.

Ms Smith (38), who travelled to join the Islamic State, also known as Isis, in Syria, is being held, along with her two-year-old daughter, in the al-Hawl displacement camp in Syria for the wives and children of Isis fighters.

On Thursday a Garda spokesman confirmed an investigation is ongoing into the former Defence Forces member in relation to suspected offences under the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act, 2005.

Gardaí have been gathering evidence on Ms Smith’s activities in Ireland and abroad. A file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions, which will decide if she can be charged under the 2005 Act.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has previously said Ms Smith would face vetting and investigation if she returns to Ireland, but Thursday’s statement from the Garda is the first official confirmation that a criminal investigation is already ongoing.

Ms Smith moved to Syria, via Tunisia, in 2015 shortly after leaving the Air Corps, where she worked as a flight attendant on the Government jet and as a driver to senior officers. She also served for a time with the Army as part of the 27th Infantry Battalion.

The 2005 Act states that legislation prohibiting membership of domestic terrorist groups such as the IRA also applies to foreign terrorist groups, even if their crimes do not take place on Irish soil.

The Department of Justice has previously stated that “by its nature and actions, Isis clearly qualifies as a ‘terrorist group’ involved in ’terrorist activity’ or ‘terrorist-linked activity’, all as defined in section 4 of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act, 2005, by reference to the EU framework decision on combating terrorism”.

The offence of membership of a terrorist group carries a maximum term of 10 years in prison.

Separate investigation

Gardaí are also investigating Alexandr Bekmirzaev, an Irish citizen originally from Belarus, for similar offences. Mr Bekmirzaev is also being held by the Kurdish authorities in Syria on suspicion of Isis membership.

Assistant Garda Commissioner for Security and Intelligence Michael O’Sullivan said an estimated 30 Irish people have travelled abroad to fight, of which 16 are now dead.

Five have returned to Ireland, where they were subject to investigation and assessment by gardaí, he told The Irish Examiner.

Mr O’Sullivan also told the newspaper there are currently fewer than 50 people in Ireland with suspected links to extremist Islamist groups, a handful of which are currently under direct surveillance.

They are suspected of offences relating to foreign terrorist financing and providing false documentation rather than of planning attacks here, Mr O’Sullivan said.