Sheik Man Haron Monis, an Islamic ‘spiritual healer’ who is facing charges of sexual assault and being an accessory to murder, has been identified as the man who has taken civilians hostage in a Sydney café, according to local media citing police sources.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that the Iranian-born hostage taker was mentally unstable.
“He [Man Haron Monis] had a long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism, and mental instability,” Abbott said. “As the siege unfolded…he sought to cloak his actions with the symbolism of the ISIL death cult.”
Abbott said that Australian authorities knew of the suspect’s extremist outlook prior to the hostage siege, from threat letters he sent to Australian soldiers deployed in the Middle East.
“We know that he sent offensive letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan and was found guilty of offences related to this,” he said. “We also know that he posted graphic extremist material online. Tragically, there are people in our community ready to engage in politically motivated violence.”
At the same time, Abbott praised police conduct during the tense hours of the standoff. “There’s no operational reason for that name to be held back by us now,” an anonymous police source told Reuters.
The Iranian-born 50-year-old fled to Australia in 1996, but came to prominence after 2007, when he began sending “hate mail” to families of soldiers, who died while fighting in Iraq.
Despite claiming to be a peace advocate, and even chaining himself to a courthouse, Monis was sentenced to 300 hours of community service last year.