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An Iranian granted asylum in Australia: Who was Sydney gunman Man Haron Monis?

Shortly after the gunman holding dozens of patrons and staff captive at Sydney's Lindt Cafe was identified, a Facebook page demanding death for Man Haron Monis went up.  Apart from expressing deep anger at Australian laws that allow 'refugees' like Monis to seek shelter in the country and then strike at it, the page put up videos and several news reports indicating that Monis was no stranger in Australia. Soon after, local news channels started airing video footages of Monis interacting with the media on several occasions in the past, thereby implying that he has had several run-ins with the Australian authorities and his radical streak was not unknown to the government and the police. In one of the videos, Monis is seen speaking in heavily accented English, ironically enough, batting for peace in Australia. "Words are my bullets. I fight with these weapons against oppression to promote peace. We should care about Australia interest, no America's interest. We are Australians...," he asserts, speaking with flourish and confidence, waving his pen in the air.

Another video shows him speaking to the media, again, and reading out from a letter he says he meant to send to families of British soldiers who died fighting in Afghanistan. The letter he reads out to the press has him expressing condolences to the families and saying that he hopes Britain and Afghanistan get to live in peace. However, that's just his side of the story. Several reports in the media suggested that the said letters were not as harmless as he made them sound in the videos from 2010. In fact, he was banned from sending the said letters after he was accused of sending abusive letters to families of Australian soldiers who died fighting in Afghanistan. An Australian court banned him from sending letters and flowers to the British families too. He had even written to Gordon Brown asking for addresses of the said British soldiers. It is evident, therefore, that Monis' extremist streak was well known to the Australian government, media and civil society.

 An Iranian granted asylum in Australia: Who was Sydney gunman Man Haron Monis?

Sheik Man Haron Monis. Image courtesy: YouTUbe.

In fact, when Monis held Australia to ransom by starting a siege in Sydney's Lindt cafe, he was actually out on bail for the following: 40 charges of sexual assault and one charge of planning the murder of his ex-wife. The Sunday Morning Herald reports: "Monis, 50, was given bail at Penrith Local Court on December 12 last year after being charged with being an accessory before and after the fact to the murder of his ex-wife and mother of their two children, Noleen Hayson Pal, 30. Ms Pal was allegedly stabbed 18 times and set alight in an apartment stairwell in Werrington on April 21, 2013." The murder was allegedly committed by his then partner Amirah Droudis.

The same report points out that the self-proclaimed spiritual leader and preacher also advertised in Australian papers about 'spiritual healing' sessions. A 27-year-old woman who attended one of those sessions, lodged a complaint of sexual assault in January alleging that Monis had sexually abused her after one of the 'healing sessions'. Soon after several similar charges started surfacing against Monis this year and the total count of charges went up to 40.

DailyMail reports: "He was due in court due in court in February next year for the sexual assault charges which stem from his western Sydney practice as a 'spiritual healer' and black magic practitioner. The charges included 22 counts of aggravated sexual assault and 14 counts of aggravated indecent assault against seven women, including one 27-year-old who answered his ads placed in ethnic Sydney newspapers."

Yesterday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot declared that Monis had a history of 'mental instability'. He told the media, "He had a long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability."

In fact, his website, which was pulled down shortly after he was identified by the Australian police, gave broad hints about his extremist inclination. Vox took screenshots of his website just before it went defunct and it shows Monis speaking in the now-familiar jihadi vocabulary declaring America is his biggest enemy and countries like US and Australia as against peace. While in the videos Monis is seen singing praises for Australia and declaring that he thinks the best for the country, in his website, he calls Australia an ally of America's terrorism. One of the several subheads in the site reads 'This is an evidence for the terrorism of America and their allies Australia. The result of their airstrikes'. The sentence is accompanied with the picture of children who seemed to have died in a violent attack. The caption, uploaded as recently as 14 December asks Muslims to fight against the 'terrorism' of America and its 'allies' Australia and UK. It so happened that Monis took the Lindt cafe hostage right the next day.

Another report on the Vox states that Monis had pledged allegiance to ISIS shortly before he decided to take the cafe hostage in Sydney. He expressed his allegiance to IS on his website. Vox reports:

" According to a portion of his now-deleted website translated from Arabic by Foundation for the Defense of Democracy's Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Monis pledged allegiance to ISIS before the attack.

"In a long and rambling Arabic passage," Gartenstein-Ross explained over the phone, "he talks about how there's the Khalifa, the caliphate of the age, and how he's proud to declare allegiance to the caliphate." The caliphate is another way of saying ISIS."

However, the report also notes that the website doesn't confirm that he had an actual connection with ISIS and wasn't merely infatuated with the extremist group's rhetoric. In fact, Manny Conditsis, his lawyer who was helping him fight the case where we was implicated in his wife's murder had the following to say about Monis: "His ideology is just so strong and so powerful that it clouds his vision for common sense and objectiveness. Knowing he was on bail for very serious offences, knowing that while he was in custody some terrible things happened to him, I thought he may consider that he's got nothing to lose."

Conditsis endorsed the fact that Monis was literally blinded by his ideology. In fact, in his website, he likened himself to Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder and said that the Australian government's charges agaisnt him were 'politically motivated'.

Monis fled Iran and was granted asylum in Australia in 1996. "Monis was born Manteghi Bourjerdi and fled from Iran to Australia in 1996 where he changed his name to Man Haron Monis and assumed the title of Sheik Haron," 9News reports.

He converted to Sunni from Shia soon after he moved to Australia. "He refers to himself as a former "rafidi," an Arabic term for "one who rejects" that is typically used by Sunnis to denigrate Shias as non-Muslim. 'I used to be a Rafidi, but not anymore. Now I am a Muslim, Alhamdu Lillah',Vox reports.

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Updated Date: Dec 16, 2014 15:19:35 IST