herald

Friday 6 December 2019

I.S. bride Smith will get advice on safety after garda grilling

Former soldier could be on streets as early as this week after return from Syria

Lisa Smith carrying her daughter after disembarking Turkish Airlines flight at Dublin Airport.
Lisa Smith carrying her daughter after disembarking Turkish Airlines flight at Dublin Airport.

Gardai will offer personal security advice to Islamic State (IS) bride Lisa Smith when they are finished questioning her about alleged terrorist offences.

The 38-year-old remained at Kevin Street Garda Station last night and officers are expected to get her detention extended by another 24 hours by a district court judge today.

A senior source told the Herald that Smith was "co-operating with the investigation and engaging with questions from the gardai".

"There is a huge volume of material to put to her as specialist detectives have been investigating this case for many months but she is talking and answering questions," the source added.

Unpopular

"In particular, she is being questioned about her past relationships with a number of men who are Islamic terrorist suspects."

A senior source said the case is being treated very sensitively.

The Herald can reveal that in an unusual move, her family was allowed have a meal with her in the garda station on Sunday.

If Smith is released without charge this week pending a decision from the DPP, sources say that she will be offered detailed safety advice by gardai.

"She is obviously a very high-profile person and her decision to travel to the so-called Islamic State has made her very unpopular with many people in Ireland and this is why it would be important that she be given security advice in relation to her own personal safety," a source said.

Dundalk woman Smith, who is a former member of the Army, is being questioned about alleged terrorist offences which happened abroad.

Smith's case is uncharted territory for gardai and their legal advisers as it is the first time that the main legislation in this instance, the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005, would be used against an Irish person suspected of engaging in terrorist activities overseas.

Gardai have carried out a security assessment on Smith, as they have done in the case of five other people who have returned from conflict zones, so that they can be satisfied she does not pose a threat to the security of the country.

Detectives are interviewing her under caution about her activities, movements, communications and contacts online and in person in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Ireland since she converted to Islam in 2012.

The criminal investigation carried out by gardai and military intelligence has resulted in a large dossier of information about Smith's contacts online with other IS sympathisers at home and abroad, as well as her movements in Tunisia, Turkey and Syria.

Over the past year, she has consistently denied suggestions that she was actively involved in any terrorist activities.

While in custody, Smith is being asked detailed questions about her activities in Syria and the extent of her support for and alleged involvement in IS.

Sources say investigating gardai "are facilitating" her religious beliefs, which means that interviews have been suspended so that she has an opportunity to pray.

Her solicitor said he believes that "the evidence of the State is inherently weak" in the case against his client.

Escorted

"We believe that Lisa has a very strong case to make and is making that case," said human rights lawyer Darragh Mackin, speaking on RTE's Morning Ireland.

The former Defence Forces member was arrested by Special Branch officers in Dublin Airport on Sunday as she was escorted home on a flight from Turkey with her two-year-old daughter, who is now being cared for by relatives in Co Louth, supervised by Tusla.

When asked if Smith had admitted joining IS, Mr Mackin said that it "wasn't as clear as that".

"The process of radicalisation is inherently focused on religious belief and unfortunately in this day and age there are extremist organisations which target particular people, vulnerable people on their religious beliefs to lure them to particular areas," he said.

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.

Smith's arrival back in Ireland came nine months after her case first emerged publicly.

Since then, the Government has been coordinating how the State should respond.

This has been complicated by the fact an entirely innocent young child, an Irish citizen, is caught up in the situation.

Bi-weekly meetings took place between officials in the departments of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Justice and gardai before she arrived.

However, now her case is being managed by the gardai's Counter Terrorism International (CTI) unit, which forms part of the Special Detective Unit (SDU).

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