Revelations | 

Lisa Smith terror trial witness had affair with married US Republican congressman

It emerged recently that her former friend Tania Joya had a relationship with a married Republican representative Van Taylor after meeting him through her work as an ex-jihadist helping to deradicalise extremists.

Tania Joya. Photo: Collins Courts

Ali Bracken

A key prosecution witness in the trial of ‘Isis bride’ Lisa Smith has become embroiled in a sex scandal in the US involving a Texas congressman.

Ms Smith (39) from Dundalk, Co Louth, has pleaded not guilty to membership of an unlawful terrorist group, Islamic State, between October 28, 2015, and December 1, 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 6, 2015.

Her trial is ongoing at the Special Criminal Court.

Lisa Smith at court. Picture by Collins Courts

It emerged recently that her former friend Tania Joya had a relationship with a married Republican representative Van Taylor after meeting him through her work as an ex-jihadist helping to deradicalise extremists.

Ms Joya told the Dallas Morning News the relationship lasted from October 2020 to June 2021.

He later apologised and said he would not rerun for Congress.

In January, Ms Joya gave evidence that Ms Smith planned to die a martyr in Syria.

Ms Smith, a one-time member of the Defence Forces, was “indoctrinated and told what to think and did what she did because she believed in a fake god”, Ms Joya told the Special Criminal Court.

The UK national gave evidence of being radicalised in her teens and 20s and explained how she travelled to the Middle East with her husband.

She told the court that Ms Smith was happy and excited when she arrived in Syria in 2013, as it was where she had always planned to be, and was planning to die there as a martyr.

The witness also revealed that Ms Smith looked up to [Ms Joya’s] first husband, John Georgelas, an American convert considered an authority and scholar on Islam.

Ms Joya said she first heard about Lisa Smith in 2013 when Mr Georgelas began speaking to Ms Smith through an Islamic Facebook page called “We Hear and We Obey”.

Ms Joya was living with her husband in Egypt at the time and he urged Ms Smith to travel to Egypt to “make hijrah” or move to a Muslim majority country.

Ms Joya, who lives in Texas, has been nicknamed the “first lady of Isis”.

In 2020, the mother-of-four, who grew up in Harrow, Middlesex in the UK, but now lives in the US with her second husband, began a nine-month relationship with Mr Taylor.

As a consequence, Mr Taylor dropped his bid for re-election to Congress.

Ms Joya’s previous husband, Mr Georgelas, grew up in Plano in Texas, converted to Islam and became a top recruiter for the extremist Islamic State group.

In 2013, he took Ms Joya and their three children to northern Syria where, as Yahya Abu Hassan, he became the most important American fighting for Isis.

He was killed in 2017.

Ms Joya, who was pregnant at the time she went to Syria with Mr Georgelas, later fled to Turkey with the children before relocating to Plano to live near her in-laws.

Following reports that Mr Taylor had had an affair with the ‘Isis bride’, the North Texas congressman admitted infidelity and announced that he was ending his re-election campaign. His statement did not mention Ms Joya by name.

“About a year ago, I made a horrible mistake that has caused deep hurt and pain among those I love most in this world,” he wrote.

“I had an affair, it was wrong, and it was the greatest failure of my life.”

The congressman, a former Marine and Iraq war combat veteran, was considered one of the Texas delegation’s most conservative members when he was elected in 2018.

But he has been sharply criticised by the party’s right wing for voting to certify the 2020 election results and supporting a commission to investigate the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol.

Toward the end of the affair with Mr Taylor, Ms Joya said she asked for help to pay off a credit card debt and some other bills. He gave her $5,000, she said.

The Englishwoman, who was radicalised after the 9/11 terror attacks, was called as a prosecution witness in Lisa Smith’s trial at the Special Criminal Court.

She gave evidence in January that she and Mr Georgelas went to Syria in 2013 with 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.

It is the prosecution’s case that Lisa Smith provided sustenance and vitality to Islamic State in an act of allegiance to the terror group.

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

The trial continues.

Today's Headlines

More Courts

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

WatchMore Videos