HANDLED WITH TOO MUCH CARE
THE LINDT CAFE INQUEST IS REVEALING THE EXTENT OF MAN HARON MONIS’S LIES AND CRIMES, AND THE LENIENCY WITH WHICH HE WAS DEALT BY AUTHORITIES, WRITES JANET FIFE-YEOMANS
VEN in death the system is still cushioning Man Haron Monis.
Five months after he died as police stormed the Lindt Cafe to bring an end to the siege in Martin Place, investigators have still not been given “Top Secret” security clearance to access the information held on him by ASIO.
Facebook in the US has not granted investigators access to the gunman’s social media account.
Then there is the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions, Lloyd Babb, who is trying to block the inquest from examining why Monis was out on bail at the time of the siege on serious charges involving the murder of his wife and a string of sexual assaults.
Babb’s own office never challenged the decisions by two magistrates to free Monis on bail. The inquest has said it will examine the granting of bail “without the benefit of hindsight”.
While Monis is emerging as a strong and manipulative character, at the same time a puzzling and contradictory man, what has become clear is how he was treated with kid gloves by everyone from immigration officials to the law courts as Australia said “she’ll be right”.
Evidence before the inquest and the joint Commonwealth and State report released by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet into the siege in January reveals how Monis was given the benefit of the doubt time and time again – until it was too late. The cafe manager Tori Johnson was shot dead and barrister Katrina Dawson’s three children are left to grow up without a mother.
Monis was killed when two police bullets or fragments of bullets hit him in the head and
11 other police bullets or fragments smashed into his body as the two police officers tasked with taking him entered the cafe at just after 2.14am on December 16 last year to end the siege.
T he kid gloves were on even before Mohammad Hassan Manteghi aka Man Haron Monis arrived in Australia on October 28, 1996.
The Iranian from the ancient city of Borujerd, 400km southwest of Tehran, was granted a short-stay business visa based on his claim that he was the legal consultant to the managing director of the Iran Marine Structure Manufacture and Engineering Company coming here to meet with BHP Billiton. He wasn’t.
Iranian police chief General Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam has since said that Monis was wanted for fraud when he fled, having stolen up to US$200,000 from a travel agency where he was working. The police later got in touch with Australian counterparts through Interpol.
He may also have been involved in sexual misconduct.
“Had (the immigration staff at the Australian Embassy in Tehran) checked, Monis’ inaccurate claims may have been exposed and the visa may not have been granted,” the joint federal and state report said. At Sydney Airport, he said his business was “carpets”. No crosschecking
What has become clear is how he was treated with
kid gloves by everyone
M onis moved into a house in Auburn with several other men, who will be witnesses next week at the inquest. Within a month of landing here, he had sought asylum in Australia.
Time and time again over the next 18 years, Australian authorities would mollycoddle him and show him surprising patience and politeness. For seven-and-a-half of those years he was spoonfed handouts, first through the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme, then Ausstudy or Newstart Allowance.
By November 4, 1996, ASIO had received its first “potentially adverse intelligence” about Monis, although the joint federal and state report said this did not relate to a terrorist threat. He was added to the Movement Alert List.
The report said Monis went on to meet with police and ASIO officials “on numerous occasions and these agencies, along with others, held hundreds of thousands of pages of information on him”.
On September 16, 1997, Monis spent more than four hours in an interview with Department of Immigration staff regarding his application for a protection visa. He claimed he was being persecuted in Iran for two reasons. One was because of his “dissident” anti-Islamic poetry which he published in a book called Caroon va
Baroon in 1995. It has been described as being “mixed to bad”. The second was that he claimed to have converted to the Ahmadi sect of Islam which led him to the attention of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security known as VAVAK and the CIA.
“This seems almost certainly a fiction he told to obtain refugee status,” Counsel assisting the inquest, Jeremy Gormly SC, said.
In January 1999, ASIO provided another adverse security assessment to immigration that Monis’ continued presence in Australia posed an “indirect and possibly a direct, risk to national security (but not in relation to politically motivated violence)”.
A year later, ASIO withdrew its opposition and Monis was granted a Protection Visa with the support of Amnesty International’s London headquarters. He had conned them into thinking he was a top-level Iranian spy. They have since apologised.
M onis moved to Perth to work as a Persian carpet salesman, later suing the company and winning after they relegated him from a manager to a “gate keeper”. He adopted the title Ayatollah and began his political agitation, chaining himself to the gates of the WA Parliament.
A year later he was back in Sydney chaining himself to the gates of the NSW Parliament.
When he applied for Australian citizenship, ASIO again put a stop notice on him. Monis found a local lawyer, Franklin Arguedas, who intervened for him with immigration. Not only did Monis get his application approved he was, incredibly, granted a private citizenship ceremony by a compliant system because he claimed his life was at risk.
From September 2003 to July 2007, he went overseas 21 times including 10 times to Bangkok. .T Twice he flew to London and back in less than two days. Once he went to New Zealand and got the next flight back.
Through Arguedas, Monis complained to customs that he was being targeted every time he returned to the country and, perversely, that when they didn’t stop him, they were being lax.
Showing the patience and courtesy that everyone else showed him, customs at Sydney Airport invited him for a personal tour.
Even when he began writing offensive letters between 2007 and 2009 to the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan, the Australian Federal Police took a “moderate” approach, the inquest has been told. An AFP agent was sent to talk to him about it. It didn’t work and he was later charged with offences under the postal service.
N ow it was the turn of the law courts to give him the benefit of the doubt. A magistrate dismissed an application by his second wife Noleen Pal for an Apprehended Violence Order against her husband – nine months before she was stabbed and burned alive in April 2013. When he was charged with accessory to the murder of Pal, Monis was granted bail with the magistrate saying he did not pose a danger.
Later charged with 43 sex offences against seven women he had assaulted while they consulted him as a “spiritual healer” and to lift their black magic curses, he was again granted bail.
Then in October last year, he wrote to Federal AttorneyGeneral George Brandis asking him about the legal implications of writing to the head of Islamic State, Caliph Ibrahim. Brandis’s office replied that he should get his own legal advice.
Six weeks after he sent the letter to Brandis, Monis walked into the Lindt Cafe with a sawn-off pump action shotgun.