The Iranian-born Australian gunman who was shot dead after a 17-hour siege at a Sydney cafe had a history of violent behavior, and was on bail for a raft of charges of sexual assault and accessory to murder, according to police.
Man Haron Monis, 50, a self-styled cleric who also went by the names Sheikh Haron and Mohammad Hassan Manteghi, had long been on the radar of authorities since penning a series of hateful letters to the families of soldiers who died fighting in Afghanistan.
In a series of YouTube videos, Monis, who got political asylum in Australia in 1996 and reportedly lived in south Sydney's Bexley North area, claimed he was tortured in an Australian prison over the letters, for which he received 300 hours of community service and then released on a two-year good behavior bond in August 2013.
Australian Federal Police revealed today that Monis was on bail for his alleged role in the gruesome slaying of his ex-wife Noleen Hayson Pal, who was also the mother of their two children. His girlfriend, Amirah Droudis, was charged with stabbing and then setting Pal on fire in a Western Sydney apartment building.
This April, authorities also charged Monis over the sexual assault of a woman in 2002, which he allegedly committed as a self-declared "spiritual healer" who specialized in astrology, numerology, meditation, and black magic, according to a Sydney Morning Herald report at the time. He was set to appear in court on these charges in February 2015.
More alleged victims had come forward and Monis was charged with more than 50 allegations of indecent and sexual assault.
Monis reading one of the letters he has sent to the family of a soldier killed in Afghanistan. Via ABC News/YouTube
The hostage situation at the Lindt Café at Martin Place that prompted a 17-hour lockdown of Sydney's central business district is now over. New South Wales police have confirmed that three people — a 34-year-old man, a 38-year-old woman, and the gunman — died in the incident. Several more, including a police officer, received non-life-threatening injuries.
As the situation unfolded, video emerged on social media showing four of the more than a dozen or so hostages relaying the gunman's demands, which included that he was given an Islamic State flag and that media broadcasts state the situation is "an attack on Australia by the Islamic State."
Despite his claims that the attack was politically motivated, it is still not clear whether Monis had any ties to the Islamic State or any other terror organizations.
Manny Conditsis, a lawyer who represented Monis at hearings on his ex-wife's murder, said he believed his former client was not working with any foreign or domestic terror networks.
"This is a one-off random individual," Conditsis told ABC Australia. "It's not a concerted terrorism event or act. It's a damaged goods individual who's done something outrageous."
Monis had previously posted several statements on his website sheikhharon.com, which now appears to be shut down, claiming that the charges and allegations against him are an attempt by the government to silence his political activity.
"Since the Australian government cannot tolerate Sheikh Haron's activity, is trying to damage his image by these false accusations, and also for putting pressure on him to stop his activity and keep him silent, but God willing Man Haron Monis will not stop his political activity against oppression," Monis wrote on his website, according to the Morning Herald.
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