Lisa Smith’s media interviews may form basis for criminal charges

Government unlikely to confirm Smith’s return until she is already in the country

July 6th, 2019: Plans to extract Lisa Smith, the suspected Isis supporter, from a camp in Syria two months ago were rejected by the Irish Government. Video: BBC

 

Islamic State supporter Lisa Smith’s admissions in media interviews of her membership of the terrorist group are likely to form the basis of any charges against her, sources say.

Officials say membership of an illegal organisation is one of the main charges under consideration by gardaí for the 38-year-old Dundalk woman. Ms Smith and her two-year-old daughter are currently in Turkey awaiting deportation to Ireland.

Most Irish anti-terror laws were drafted with domestic organisations in mind such as republican paramilitaries. However, they can also apply to organisations defined by the EU as terrorist groups, a category which includes Islamic State, also known as Isis.

Ms Smith has given several interviews to various media outlets admitting membership or association with Islamic State. Government officials say this is the firmest evidence that she committed an offence which could be successfully prosecuted in an Irish court.

Consideration is also being given to charges under the Criminal Law Act 1976, which prohibits recruitment to terrorist organisations. Officials say there is some evidence to suggest Ms Smith may have encouraged others to travel to join up with Islamic State.

Any other prosecutions of Ms Smith for allegedly engaging in terrorist offences or for training others will likely be hampered by a lack of witnesses. Irish security services have gathered a significant amount of information on her actions in Syria since she went to join Islamic State in 2015. However, much of this comes from other foreign intelligence agencies who are unlikely to testify in an Irish court.

The simplest way of bringing charges against Ms Smith would be to prosecute her for travelling to join a terrorist organisation, something for which there is ample evidence. However, EU legislation criminalising travel for terrorist purposes has yet to be transposed into Ireland law.

The vast majority of other EU states have already passed legislation in the area. On Tuesday the Department of Justice said the EU directive will be passed into Irish law under the Terrorist Offences (Amendment) Bill, which is currently in its preliminarily stages.

A spokesman said this law would not be retroactive, and would not apply to people who have already travelled to join foreign terrorist groups. He pointed out the directive was only passed at EU level in 2017, by which time many EU citizens who have joined terrorist groups in the Middle East had already departed.

Ranger Wing

A team from the Department of Foreign Affairs, supported by members of the Army Ranger Wing, are in Turkey liaising with the Turkish authorities on Ms Smith’s repatriation.

It is understood she has expressed a desire not to be deported back to Ireland, and has said she wants to return in her own timeframe.

Sources say Irish Government officials have prepared a detailed plan on how her repatriation will be publicly presented, involving the Departments of the Taoiseach, Foreign Affairs and Justice.

Under Government plans the repatriation of Ms Smith will not be publicly confirmed until she is already back in Ireland. Once back she will undergo a security assessment, and will be asked to sit for a voluntary interview with gardaí from the Special Detective Unit.

She will also be advised she and her daughter face a possible danger to her safety from people opposed to her return, and will be given advice on how to remain safe.

She is also likely to be subject to Garda surveillance, both overt and covert, to monitor her movements and for her own protection.

Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said his primary concern was for Ms Smith’s daughter, a “two-year-old little girl who in my view as an Irish citizen we have an obligation to protect. That is what is driving all of this.”