Man Haron Monis

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Man Haron Monis
Man Haron Monis.jpeg
Man Haron Monis In 2006
Born Mohammad-Hassan Manteghi Borujerdi[1]
(1964-05-19)19 May 1964
Borujerd, Iran
Died 16 December 2014(2014-12-16) (aged 50)
Martin Place, Sydney,
New South Wales, Australia
Cause of death
Ballistic trauma
Residence Bexley North, New South Wales, Australia
Height 1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)
Religion
Criminal charge
Criminal status Died while awaiting trial in Australia
Spouse(s) Noleen Hayson Pal (ex-wife)
Website

Man Haron Monis (Persian: هارون مونس‎‎; 19 May 1964 – 16 December 2014) was an Iranian-born Australian citizen[2] At the time of his death he had recently converted from Shia Islam to Sunni Islam, and pledged his allegiance to the caliphate declared by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.[3] He had sought political asylum in Australia in 1996,[4] which was granted in 2001.[5] He was also known as Sheikh Haron,[6] Mohammad Hassan Manteghi,[7] and Ayatollah Manteghi Boroujerdi.[8]

On 15 December 2014, Monis took hostages in a siege at the Lindt Chocolate Café at Martin Place, Sydney,[9] lasting until the early hours of the following morning; the siege took place over a period of 17 hours and resulted in three deaths. Monis was confirmed by police to be dead at the conclusion of the siege.[10][11]

Life in Iran and migration to Australia[edit]

Monis was born in Iran in 1964.[12] He migrated to Australia as a refugee in 1996 seeking political asylum.[13][14]

He had been a Shiite Muslim until his abrupt conversion to Sunni Islam shortly before he took hostages in Sydney. Some Australian Muslim commentators said that his conversion to Sunni Islam was less out of genuine religious conviction than designed to provide credibility in seeking an association with ISIL, as one "can't really claim to love IS when you're a Shiite and they're trying to exterminate you".[15] He was a long-time self-proclaimed sheikh, albeit not recognised as such in the Islamic community.[16][14] He was marginalised by Australian Muslim religious authorities and mosques, both Shia and Sunni, for his extremist views and problematic personal and criminal history. It appears he came to espouse an extreme Islamist ideology on his own, and police and intelligence agencies have not identified any connections between Monis and international terrorist organisations.[17] Monis had been on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation's watch-list in 2008 and 2009, but was dropped off the list for reasons that were not specified.[18]

He published a book of poetry, Inside and Out or Daroon and Boroon (Persian: درون و برون‎), in 1996 in Iran.[19][20]

In November 2000, he chained himself to a pole at Parliament House, Sydney, and went on a one-day hunger strike to draw attention to his cause.[21][22]

In 2001, using the name Ayatollah Manteghi Boroujerdi,[8] he claimed in an interview with ABC Radio National's The Religion Report that he had been involved with the Iranian ministry of intelligence and security, and that his criticism of the regime and secret information he possessed had resulted in his persecution as well as the detention of his wife and children. During an ABC Radio interview, he claimed that his family's detention was a result of views the Iranian government believed to be "dangerously liberal".[23] Australia granted his request for political asylum that year.[14][24][25] He claimed that his request for asylum followed the detention of his wife and children by Iranian authorities after he espoused liberal views on Islam.[26] According to London-based Persian TV channel Manoto 1, he had fled Iran after taking US$200,000 of his customers' money in his tourism agency.[27] The chief of the Iranian police, Esmaeil Ahmadi-Moghaddam, confirmed that Monis previously ran a travel agency in Iran and fled the country to Malaysia and then Australia, having "a dark and long history of violent crime and fraud".[28] According to Iran's official news agency, he was under prosecution by INTERPOL and Iranian police at the time he was granted asylum, and Australian police did not extradite him despite several requests.[29] Some commentators have expressed concern regarding this immigration and citizenship process.[30][31]

Criminal record in Iran[edit]

Esmaeil Ahmadi-Moghaddam, Iran's chief of police, told reporters that Monis had "a dark and long history of violent crime and fraud" in Iran and had run a travel agency in 1996, before fleeing to Malaysia and then Australia. "It lasted 4 years to collect evidence on Manteghi [Monis]'s identification documents and we reported this to the Australian police but since Australia has no extradition treaty with Iran, they didn't extradite him to Iran".[28] The London-based Persian TV channel Manoto 1 reported that Monis had been working as the managing director of a tourism agency in Iran, and had fled Iran after taking US$200,000 of his customers' money. The same source reported that he was protected from extradition by his refugee status.[32]

Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency states that he was "under prosecution by the Interpol" and Iran provided information to the Australian government about his criminal record, mental and spiritual status. Despite this, he was granted asylum in Australia.[29] Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham, publicly questioned the Australian government's having taken his criminal status "completely clear", after several discussions.[29]

Allegations of fabricated cleric status[edit]

Monis proclaimed himself to be a Muslim cleric.[4][12][23] In late 2007, Australian Federation of Islamic Councils head Ikebal Patel said no Islamic community leaders knew anything about Monis and believed he "could be a fake deliberately stirring up anti-Islamic sentiment".[33]

On 28 January 2008, Australia's senior Shia leader and head of Supreme Islamic Shia Council of Australia, Kamal Mousselmani, told The Australian that Monis "was not a genuine Shia spiritual leader" and "there are no ayatollahs in Australia." He urged Federal government officials to investigate his identity. "From the way he writes his fatwas (or religious edicts), I don't think he is Shia Muslim", he added.[34]

Hate mail campaign[edit]

Monis, together with a colleague, Amirah Droudis, undertook a campaign protesting against the presence of Australian troops in Afghanistan, by writing letters to the families of soldiers killed there, in which he called the soldiers murderers,[35] and urged the soldiers' families to petition the government to remove its troops from Afghanistan. According to justice Heydon of the High Court, the letters compared "the (deceased soldier) son to a pig and to a dirty animal. It calls the son's body 'contaminated'. It refers to it as 'the dirty body of a pig'. It describes Hitler as not inferior to the son in moral merit".[36] Monis was arrested on charges of "using a postal or similar service to menace, harass or cause offence".[37]

Court cases[edit]

On 10 November 2009, Monis appeared in court and claimed through his lawyers to be a peace activist. He later chained himself to the courthouse in protest over the charges.[38] Monis was subsequently barred by the courts from expanding his protest to include letters to UK soldiers' families.[39]

In December 2011, Monis appeared before the Court of Criminal Appeal in Sydney arguing that the charges against him were invalid because they infringed on his implied constitutional freedom of political communication, but the three-judge panel unanimously dismissed his case.[40]

Upon further appeal to the High Court of Australia, the six-judge panel split 3–3 over the issue.[41] Although the High Court of Australia normally comprises seven judges, one seat was vacant and as yet unfilled at the time Monis's case appeared before the court. Failing to achieve a majority vote in Monis's favour, the lower court's unanimous decision was left to stand.[42]

On 12 December 2014, Monis' appeal against his conviction for criminal use of the postal service was rejected by the High Court of Australia.[43] The conviction related to his protest against the presence of Australian troops in Afghanistan, which he expressed by sending letters to the families of soldiers killed there in which he called the soldiers murderers[44] and urged the families to petition the government to remove its troops from Afghanistan. One of the letters compared a dead soldier to a pig and called his body "contaminated".[45] He sent similar letters to the families of British soldiers and the mother[46] of a government official killed by a bombing in Jakarta, Indonesia. Monis pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation and 300 hours of community service and banned from using the Australian postal service.[47][48][49] According to The Age, this conviction consumed him for several years, and the hostage incident followed three days after an unsuccessful attempt to have the conviction overturned.[50] Monis had been granted conditional bail because the magistrate said "there were significant flaws in the Crown's case".[51]

Murder charge[edit]

In July 2011, Monis was charged at a St Mary's police station for intimidation of his ex-wife, Noleen Hayson Pal, following a confrontation in a McDonald's car park in Green Valley.[52] Pal claimed Monis had threatened to shoot her and told her that he held a gun licence. On 21 April 2013, Pal's body was found stabbed 17 times and alight in a Werrington apartment stairwell. Monis' girlfriend Amirah Droudis was formally charged with Pal's murder, and on 15 November 2013, Monis was charged by NSW Police with being an accessory before and after the fact to the murder of Pal.[53]

On 12 December 2013, Monis and Amirah appeared before Magistrate William Pierce at Penrith Local Court where they were granted bail.[54] The magistrate said there were significant flaws in the Crown's case against the pair. "It is a weak case" he said.[55] Prosecutor Brian Royce said Monis' claims that the Iranian Secret Police and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) were trying to frame him for the murder were fanciful. Magistrate Pierce said all theories needed to be examined.[56]

On 22 January 2014, Monis appeared at Parramatta Local Court and, after informing magistrate Joan Baptie that he was representing himself, began discussing documents that he claimed were held by ASIO. He also claimed that ASIO was "conspiring against him" as they wanted him jailed. Magistrate Baptie told Monis that she had no power to order the release of documents held by ASIO and "advised him to stop talking because he would harm his defence". Monis staged a protest outside the court, following the adjournment of the case, "wearing chains and holding a sign claiming he has been tortured in custody". He was quoted as saying: "This is not a criminal case. This is a political case."[6]

Sexual assault charges[edit]

On 14 March 2014, Monis was arrested and charged with sexually and indecently assaulting a young woman who went to his consultancy in Wentworthville, New South Wales, for "spiritual healing", after seeing an advertisement in a local newspaper. Monis claimed he was an expert in "astrology, numerology, meditation and black magic" services.[57] Seven months later, on 13 October 2014, a further 40 charges were added, including 22 counts of aggravated sexual assault and 14 counts of aggravated indecent assault, allegedly committed against six more women who had visited his business.[58]

Conversion to Sunni Islam[edit]

Monis stated in December 2014 that he had converted from Shia Islam to Sunni Islam.[3][59] An announcement on his now-suspended website, posted a week before the Sydney siege, stated: "I used to be a Rafidi, but not any more. Now I am a Muslim, Alhamdu Lillah."[9][60] "Rafidi", which means "one who rejects" in Arabic, "is typically used by Sunnis to denigrate Shias as non-Muslim".[61] Monis also used his website to pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State whose 'main enemies' are the Shi'a.[20]

On the day prior to taking a group of people hostage, Monis posted to his website:

Islam is the religion of peace, that's why Muslims fight against the oppression and terrorism of USA and its allies including UK and Australia. If we stay silent towards the criminals we cannot have a peaceful society. The more you fight with crime, the more peaceful you are. Islam wants peace on the Earth, that's why Muslims want to stop terrorism of America and its allies. When you speak out against crime you have taken one step towards peace.[25]

Criticism of politicians[edit]

Monis used social media to attack politicians including current Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. His criticisms of Abbott, from 2013, related to Australia's military presence in Afghanistan. On 5 December 2014, he referred to a statement made by Rudd on changing immigration laws after Monis had been charged with seven counts of harassment. Before it was taken down, on 15 December 2014, Monis's Facebook account had 14,000 "likes".[62]

Hostage-taking and death[edit]

Messages chalked on Martin Place after the event

On the morning of 15 December 2014, Monis took hostage employees and customers at the Lindt chocolate café in Martin Place, Sydney, across from a Seven Network television studio. Hostages were made to hold up a Black Standard with the shahādah (Islamic statement of faith) written in white Arabic text.[63]

Neighbouring buildings, including government offices and financial institutions, and Martin Place railway station, were evacuated and locked down. Some hostages managed to escape. The event lasted over 16 hours before police tactical officers stormed the café in the early hours of the following morning[64][65] and Monis was confirmed by police to have died in the ensuing confrontation.[66] Two of the hostages also died, several others were wounded, and a policeman suffered minor injuries.[66][67]

In a website posting prior to the hostage incident, Monis denied all the charges against him, calling them politically motivated,[4] accusing the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Australia's ASIO of framing him.[7]

Investigations[edit]

Prime Minister Tony Abbott was briefed by the Australian Federal Police on 16 December that Monis had a gun licence, but the AFP later confirmed that Monis "was not a registered firearms licence holder".[68] A joint review has been announced by the federal and state governments, to be helmed by Michael Thawley from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and Blair Comley of the New South Wales Department of Premier and Cabinet. It will investigate the handling of the siege, and how Monis "slipped through state and federal security and legal nets".[69] Although a call had been made to the national security hotline based on the contents of Monis' website, there were no threats of direct violence.[70]

On 16 December, officers from the New South Wales Police Force and the Australian Federal Police went to the Belmore home of Monis' partner Amirah Droudis, and removed property.[71][72] Her bail was revoked after a hearing on 22 December.[73]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ Bita, Natasha (17 December 2014). "'Deranged' Monis granted citizenship in 2004". The Australian (News Limited). Retrieved 17 December 2014. (subscription required (help)).  Closed access
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  53. ^ 12 December 2013 court list Penrith Magistrate Court
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  65. ^ a b "Sydney siege: Two hostages and gunman dead after heavily armed police storm Lindt cafe in Martin Place". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 16 December 2014. Retrieved 15 December 2014. Two hostages and the gunman at the centre of a 16-hour siege at a cafe in Sydney's CBD have been shot dead, police have confirmed. 
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External links[edit]

Media related to 2014 Sydney hostage crisis at Wikimedia Commons