SYDNEY HOSTAGE CRISIS

Sydney siege: Gunman had long list of criminal charges

Iranian refugee Man Haron Monis speaks in this still image taken from undated file footage. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Iranian refugee Man Haron Monis speaks in this still image taken from undated file footage. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY - The Lindt cafe hostage-taker whom police identified as self-described cleric Man Haron Monis, 50, had a long list of run-ins with the law, according to Australian media reports.

Last year, he was charged with being an accessory to the murder of his former wife, the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) reported.

Ms Noleen Hayson Pal was stabbed and set alight in an apartment block. His girlfriend Amirah Droudis had been charged with murder, the report added.

In April, Monis, who advertised his services as a "spiritual healer" more than a decade ago, was charged with the indecent and sexual assault of a woman in 2002, SMH said. News of his arrest led more women to step forward, and Monis was hit with another 40 charges in October.

Iran-born Monis also had a lengthy track record of attacking politicians on social media, including Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his predecessor Kevin Rudd, 9news.com.au said.

Monis' trouble with the law started when he wrote poison letters to the families of dead Australian soldiers seven years ago. He was protesting against the presence of Australian troops in Afghanistan. Last year, he was sentenced to 300 hours of community service and placed on a two- year good behaviour bond for the "offensive" letters.

Recently, Monis likened himself on his own webpage to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, claiming that the most recent charges against him had been laid for "political reasons", SMH said.

"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," he wrote on his website, sheikhharon.com. His Facebook page was shut down last night during the siege.