Lisa Smith, a former member of the Defence Forces who denies membership of Islamic State, "threw her life away to go and join a violent extremist ideology", a witness has told the Special Criminal Court.

Tania Joya, who knew Ms Smith when the accused first travelled to Turkey and Syria in 2013, told the three-judge, non-jury court about her own path to radicalisation and how she changed her opinions.

She said Ms Smith had grown up in a society where she had "all the liberties I didn't have" and "threw all that away" because she had been rejected by her own people and was "embraced" by the Muslim community.

She said that Islam, which she described as a "religion of hate", can be attractive for people with "low self-esteem and hate".

She added that there was a "big difference" between Ms Smith's situation and her own, coming from a Muslim community where she was never exposed to criticism of Islam.

Ms Smith, she said, "threw her life away to go and join a violent, extremist ideology".

Ms Joya also said that, when in the Middle East, Ms Smith enjoyed the attention she got from Arab men, who the witness said have "this lust and craze for white people".

She added: "Lisa didn't get that from her own people, so she liked it."

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

When Ms Smith arrived in Turkey, Ms Joya said the accused wanted to travel to Syria to fight for Islamic rebels against the Assad regime. She said Ms Smith "felt an obligation to use her training to help the Syrians".

Ms Joya was asked by Michael O'Higgins, counsel for the defence, if she remembered that when Ms Smith asked what she could do in Syria, she was laughed at and told that the only place for a woman was in the kitchen. The witness replied that she didn't remember hearing those things being said.

Ms Smith married a Tunisian man shortly after arriving in Syria in 2013 and, Mr O'Higgins said, she got pregnant twice within six months. Ms Joya said Ms Smith may have felt pressure from her husband to have a child.

She agreed with Mr O'Higgins that in Islam, wives are expected to obey their husbands and their husbands can "chastise" their wives by beating them. She said that Islam teaches that to disobey your husband is to disobey god.

She also agreed with him that when she was young and angry, Islam "provided a voice" for her pain. But she added: "If I hadn't been born a Muslim I wouldn't have felt that way."

The trial continues on Monday in front of Mr Justice Tony Hunt, Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge Cormac Dunne.