Alleged Islamic State member Lisa Smith donated money to a jihadist with whom she later travelled to Syria to ‘help the rebels’2

Robin SchillerJanuary 27 2022

Alleged Islamic State member Lisa Smith donated money to a jihadist with whom she later travelled to Syria to ‘help the rebels’, the Special Criminal Court has heard.

This morning Tania Joya, who was radicalised after the 9/11 terror attacks, said she and her husband went to Syria in 2013 with an “excited” and “happy” Ms Smith.

She said the former soldier was respected for her military training and that she planned to ‘die a martyr’ during the country’s civil war.

Ms Smith (39), with an address in Dundalk, Co Louth, is on trial charged with membership of an unlawful terrorist group, the Islamic State (IS), between October 28, 2015, and December 1, 2019.

She is also accused of trying to finance terrorism by attempting to provide €800 in assistance, via a Western Union money transfer, to a named man on May 6, 2015, for the benefit of the same terror organisation.

The defendant has pleaded not guilty to both charges.

It is the prosecution’s case that she provided sustenance and vitality to IS in an act of allegiance to the terror group.

Today Tania Joya gave evidence that she and her jihadist husband began conversing with Lisa Smith online before travelling with her to Syria in 2013.

She said they had both become radicalised in their late teens shortly after the September 11 attacks, but that she eventually became less religious and de-radicalised.

Her husband John Gerogelas, an American convert and scholar of Islam, had set up an Facebook group called ‘We Hear, We Obey’ in 2011.

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Under cross-examination from Michael O’Higgins SC, defending, Ms Joya said that Lisa Smith “reached out” to her husband.

She said the accused was “very receptive”, was “indoctrinated”, and was like a student to Georgelas.

The witness accepted that her husband was charismatic and that Ms Smith, along with others, donated money to him.

She told the court that Georgelas was “like a politician” with fundraising and recalled the accused sending him £50.

Ms Joya said she could not say if this money was used to buy a laptop, and accepted there may have been donations she was unaware of.

Earlier Tania Joya said that Lisa Smith met them in Turkey in late August 2013 before they travelled across the Syrian border.

The witness said Ms Smith was “happy” and “excited” to be there, that she wanted to “help the rebels”, and that she “was planning to die there to be a martyr”.

The court heard that this was in relation to the civil war and that the caliphate, the Islamic State, had not yet been established.

She said they “respected” Lisa Smith because of her army training, as well as her knowledge of war planes.

Ms Joya said after arriving in Syria they stayed in an apartment that had no electricity, smashed windows, and was riddled with bullet holes. She also said it was used by the local militia to hold meetings.

In her evidence-in-chief she said that while there Lisa Smith expressed interest in marrying a Tunisian fighter called Ahmed.

“I didn’t like that Lisa wanted to marry Ahmed. It was bats*** crazy”, the witness told prosecuting counsel Sean Gillane.

She added that they couldn’t converse in the same language and didn’t know each other, but later married.

Ms Joya told the three judges that she left Syria as she didn’t want her three children in a war zone.

The court also heard that, when she told Lisa Smith that she would report her to the FBI, the accused blocked Tania Joya on Facebook.

She later returned to the United States with her children.

The trial continues before the Special Criminal Court tomorrow morning

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