December 15 2014
– The Iranian-born gunman who seized hostages in a downtown Sydney cafe had a long list of run-ins with authorities that include dozens of alleged sexual assaults on women stemming from his services as a spiritual healer, according to police.
Among the most serious allegations brought against Man Haron Monis, who was killed when police stormed the cafe, was accessory to the murder of his ex-wife.
Monis, 50, had been free on bail, and a former lawyer described him as a troubled individual acting entirely on his own. “This is a one-off random individual,” Manny Conditsis told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “It’s not a concerted terrorism event or act. It’s a damaged goods individual who’s done something outrageous.”
Conditsis described his former client as a man of “ideology … so strong and so powerful that it clouds his vision for common sense and objectiveness.”
Monis characterized himself on a website as a Muslim cleric persecuted by the government for his political views. Last year, he was convicted in connection with offensive letters to the families of Australian troops killed in Afghanistan.
The gunman made several demands during the 16-hour siege, including a request for an Islamic State flag. He claimed he had scattered bombs across Sydney.
Aussie gunman, 2 hostages killed
Monis said on his website that the government made false allegations against him after he initiated a political letter-writing campaign in 2007. He said he has no connection with any organization or party “but is against war and any western invasion of Muslim countries.”
Writing about himself in the third person in a sometimes rambling message, Monis vowed on the website to “not stop his political activity against oppression and also … not care if his image will be damaged.”
Terror-free for years, Australia confronts extremists
Sydney police described Monis in news releases as a former spiritual leader who was charged in October with 40 allegations of sexual assault and indecency in a case involving six women. Police said they began investigating him in January in connection with the sexual assault of a woman who sought out a spiritual healer in 2002.
Monis was arrested in April in that case and charged with sexual assault, according to police. Detectives continued their investigation of Monis and identified six additional women who had been assaulted, police said.
In a separate case, Australia’s federal prosecutors won a conviction against Monis in 2013 in connection with sending offensive letters to the relatives of Australian soldiers who died in combat in Afghanistan. He was sentenced to 300 hours of community service.
A sentencing judge described the letters as “grossly offensive.”
On his website, Monis claimed the government took away his children and banned him from communicating with them.
– Donna Leinwand Leger and Gregg Zoroya