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Fake 'Sheikh' who practised black magic, wrote poison pen letters and faced sex and murder charges

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Iranian refugee Man Haron Monis speaks in this still image taken from undated file footage. Australian security forces on December 16, 2014 stormed the Sydney cafe where several hostages were being held at gunpoint, in what looked like the dramatic denouement to a standoff that had dragged on for more than 16 hours

Iranian refugee Man Haron Monis speaks in this still image taken from undated file footage. Australian security forces on December 16, 2014 stormed the Sydney cafe where several hostages were being held at gunpoint, in what looked like the dramatic denouement to a standoff that had dragged on for more than 16 hours

FILE - In this April 18, 2011 file photo of Man Haron Monis, believed to be the gunman inside the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place

FILE - In this April 18, 2011 file photo of Man Haron Monis, believed to be the gunman inside the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place

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Iranian refugee Man Haron Monis speaks in this still image taken from undated file footage. Australian security forces on December 16, 2014 stormed the Sydney cafe where several hostages were being held at gunpoint, in what looked like the dramatic denouement to a standoff that had dragged on for more than 16 hours

The man behind the shocking siege in a Sydney cafe was Man Haron Monis, a notorious 49-year-old self-proclaimed sheikh who claimed to practice black magic and was well known for multiple crimes, including sending offensive letters to grieving families of dead Australian soldiers and allegedly murdering his ex-wife.

Monis, a self-proclaimed "spiritual healer", had a long history of criminal convictions.

In October, he was charged with 40 indecent and sexual assault charges, including 22 counts of aggravated sexual assault and 14 counts of aggravated indecent assault relating to six women.

In 2002, he faced charges of sexually assaulting a woman and of joining with his current wife to stab his ex-wife to death in Sydney last year.

Police apparently identified Monis as the gunman within hours of the siege: his appearance closely resembled the figure seen lurking behind the windows of the Lindt cafe in Sydney, where he took hostages and brought the city to a standstill.

He also spoke to police, some of whom would have spoken to him during numerous investigations into his long history of crime and troublemaking.

Some of the media reporting on the siege, were aware of his identity but were asked by police not to reveal it.

Dubbed the "hate sheikh", Monis, who was reportedly born in Iran, first made national headlines after he caused widespread outrage by sending insulting letters and a DVD to families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan and the mother of an Australian official killed in a bombing in Indonesia.

He was last year sentenced to 300 hours of community service after pleading guilty to sending the "grossly offensive" letters between 2007 and 2009. Amirah Droudis (34), his wife, also pleaded guilty to participating in the abusive letter writing. She reportedly once approached a soldier's loved ones at his funeral.

Monis, who sometimes went by the name Mohammad Hassan Manteghi, was charged this year with being an accessory to the murder of Noleen Hayson Pal (30), his ex-wife and mother-of-two. She was stabbed multiple times and set alight before being found in an apartment stairwell in April. She apparently met Monis following newspaper advertisements in which he claimed to be a spiritual healer.

Monis had claimed he was framed by the Iranian Secret Police and ASIO, Australia's domestic spy agency. Prosecutors said he constructed an "elaborate" alibi, including deliberately filming a clock, while asking for the time at a swimming pool before the murder and later faking a car crash outside a police station.

The pair were separated and in a bitter custody dispute. His current wife, Droudis, was also accused of the murder.

Monis was charged in April with the sexual assault of a woman then aged 27 in Sydney in 2002. She met him after seeing his newspaper advertisement for "spiritual consultation" and he claimed to be an expert in astrology, numerology and black magic.

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During court hearings after his arrest for the letter-writing, Monis claimed he was a peace activist and chained himself to the court, waving a small Australian flag. He described his letters as "flowers of advices [sic]", saying "from now on when I want to advise people not to kill civilians I should do it by hand delivery".

Monis repeatedly refused to apologise and even brought an appeal to the High Court, claiming the letters were "purely political" and should be protected under the right to freedom of speech. The court dismissed the claim.

His next appearance in court on the sex assault charges was due to occur in February 2015.

hnews@herald.ie


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