Man Haron Monis, the gunman who held 17 people hostage before killing two in a Sydney, Lindt cafe on Monday, was a wanted man in Iran before he became known to Australian police. According to BBC reports, Iran requested the extradition of Monis, known in Iran as “Manteqi,” 14 years ago but was refused by the Australian authorities. Iran’s head of police, General Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam, said Monis had fled to Australia in the late 1990s to escape fraud charges.
Gen Moghaddam told the BBC that Monis had been a travel agency manager at the time he fled to Malaysia before continuing to Australia using a false name. Moghaddam said the Australian police refused to extradite Monis, as Australia and Iran did not have agreements regarding the extradition of criminals. He added that Monis applied to Australia for political asylum, which was granted in 1996.
Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) deputy police commissioner Catherin Burn said Monis was known to Sydney police and had a history of crime and violence. At the time of the siege Monis was on bail for a series of offenses, including being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife who was allegedly stabbed to death by Monis’s girlfriend, Amirah Droudis. Monis also had a recorded conviction for sending hate mail to the families of deceased Australian soldiers and was facing over 40 charges for sexual and indecent assault.
Monis, 50, was described by Australia’s prime minister Tony Abbott, as a “deeply disturbed individual” who had a history of mental instability. The Sydney Lindt store gunman who was wanted in Iran long before becoming known to Australian police, has been labelled a “self-styled Iranian cleric,” and a “self-proclaimed Islamic sheikh”. Monis, who was born in Iran as Manteghi Bourjerdi, was killed by police after a 16-hour standoff during which he killed Lindt cafe manager Tori Johnson, 34, and Sydney lawyer Katrina Dawson, 38. Three other hostages and one police officer were treated for gunshot wounds. All were later reported to be in stable condition.
Australian officials are now being asked how a man who was well-known to police and had a history of criminal offenses was able to remain at liberty and obtain firearms. NSW recently passed a bail law that could potentially prevent an individual with a criminal history such as Monis from remaining on the street. However the law is not due to take effect until early next year. NSW attorney general Brad Hazzard is reported to have been frustrated by the fact that law was not in force in time to prevent the Lindt store tragedy.
Muslims across Australia have come forward to offer support and condolences for the families of the deceased and former hostages. Australia’s Grand Mufti, Ibrahim Abu Mohammad, was among hundreds of people who visited a special memorial which has arisen near the Lindt cafe in Martin Place, Sydney. In a joint statement by dozens of muslim groups, Mohammad said that they were praying for a “…speedy recovery of all those injured and traumatized.”
Meanwhile Australians have shown support for the nation’s muslims with thousands embracing the Twitter hashtag #illridewithyou. The tag appears to have been created to symbolize one’s willingness to share public transport with anyone wearing religious garments who may fear harassment due to the actions of Monis, despite the fact that the Sydney Lindt gunman was known to police and was previously wanted in Iran. The continued sharing of the hashtag demonstrates the Australia’s understanding that Monis’s actions were not those encouraged by extremists, but rather the actions of one very troubled individual.
By Monica Grant
Photo by Matt1980 – Flickr License