Tags: Sydney | gunman | siege | killed

Sydney Siege Spurs Demand to Know Why Gunman Was Free on Bail

Tuesday, 16 Dec 2014 10:11 PM

Australian authorities are probing why the gunman responsible for a deadly Sydney hostage-taking was free on bail and not on a watchlist, despite his history of violence and extremist sympathies.

Man Haron Monis, 50, died along with two of his captives in the Lindt Chocolat Cafe in the early hours of Tuesday, after a 16-hour siege. The self-proclaimed cleric from Iran was awaiting trial on a string of charges including being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, and had warned that Australia faced an attack for sending troops to Afghanistan.

“The system did not adequately deal with this individual,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in an interview with Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio today. “We want to know why he wasn’t being monitored given his history of violence, his history of instability, his history of infatuation with extremism.”

New South Wales Premier Mike Baird echoed those concerns and said Sydneysiders had “every right to feel upset” Monis had been at large.

Monis arrived in Australia in 1996 claiming to be a refugee. Iran’s Fars news agency said Australia denied an attempt to extradite him back to the Islamic Republic, where he’d been indicted for fraud and went by the name of Mohammad Hassan Manteghi Bourjerdi.

Tourist Agency

He had worked as the managing director of a tourist agency in Iran and fled the country with about $200,000 of clients’ money, a former co-worker said in a telephone interview. He collected money from about 50 families for tickets and visa fees for European countries and after about seven months disappeared with the funds, said Sassan Khalebani.

“He didn’t act crazy or strange,” Khalebani said. “He was a good manager, that is until he stole the money.”

Monis defrauded his clients and fled to Malaysia and then to Australia, Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam, Iran’s chief of police, was cited by Fars news as saying. He described the gunman as a conman who changed his name and put on clerical robes to get political asylum.

Monis faced charges including being an accessory with his girlfriend to the murder of his ex-wife, who was stabbed and then set alight in Sydney. He had also been charged this year with sexual offenses dating back a decade, when he had operated as a “spiritual healer,” according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Offensive Letters

He was sentenced to 300 hours of community service and placed on a two-year good-behavior bond for writing offensive letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan, the Herald reported. Monis failed in his final bid to overturn that indictment on Dec. 12, court documents show.

In November 2013, Monis challenged Abbott to a debate so he could prove that “Australia and Australians will be attacked,” because of the country’s involvement in Afghanistan, according to the gunman’s website.

“We’re all outraged that this guy was on the street,” Baird said yesterday. “We need to understand why he was, we also need to understand why he wasn’t picked up, and we’ll be working closely with the federal authorities together with our own agencies to ensure what we can do better.”

State Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione told reporters today his force had applied to have Monis refused bail and that the decision had been taken by the courts.

Authorities are also investigating how Monis acquired the shotgun apparently used in the attack, Abbott said.

Hostages Killed

Monis held 17 hostages in the cafe on Martin Place, a plaza at the heart of Sydney’s financial and legal district, and forced some to hold a black Islamic flag known as a Shahada against the window.

Mother-of-three Katrina Dawson, a 38-year-old barrister, and cafe manager Tori Johnson, 34, were killed.

Three others and a police officer received gunshot wounds. Five of the hostages escaped from the building on the first day, while about six fled in the closing moments of the siege.

John O’Brien, 83, who was one of the first hostages to escape, told reporters today he’d gone for a coffee after having an eye checkup. He paid tribute to the emergency services and fellow hostages and said he was “grateful to be home with my lovely wife.”

“I have never felt such a relief as I did when I turned that corner and saw the armed police waiting,” O’Brien said.

Abbott’s government raised the terrorism alert to the highest level in a decade in September, citing the threat posed by supporters of Islamic State, or ISIS.

‘Brush With Terrorism’

His Liberal-National coalition has passed counter-terrorism legislation aimed at disrupting planned domestic attacks and has supported the international coalition to degrade ISIS in the Middle East.

Yesterday, Abbott said the siege was a “brush with terrorism” that illustrated why the government was pushing through anti-terrorism laws, including legislation to enforce telecommunication companies to store metadata for at least two years.

The prime minister’s comments may have been premature, according to Gavin Smith, a senior lecturer in sociology at the Australian National University in Canberra.

“We need to know all the facts and start thinking about the wider cultural, political and foreign policy issues that may have contributed to this,” said Smith, author of a book on electronic surveillance titled “Opening the Black Box: The Work of Watching.”

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Australian authorities are probing why the gunman responsible for a deadly Sydney hostage-taking was free on bail and not on a watchlist, despite his history of violence and extremist sympathies.Man Haron Monis, 50, died along with two of his captives in the Lindt Chocolat...
Sydney, gunman, siege, killed
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2014-11-16
Tuesday, 16 Dec 2014 10:11 PM
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