Sydney hostage taker dropped from terror watch list years ago
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that the Sydney hostage-taker, Man Haron Monis, was on the country's terrorist watch list as recently as 2009, but he was dropped for reasons that remain unclear.
Monis was placed on the list when he sent cruel letters to the families of dead Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan in 2009. But despite a violent history since then – including being charged in the murder of his ex-wife – Monis disappeared from the national security watch list.
Abbott said that Monis was on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation's watch list in 2008 and 2009, but was later dropped from it. The agency was watching Monis because he had sent a series of offensive letters to the families of dead Australian soldiers, Abbott said.
"I don't know why he dropped off the watch list in those days, I really don't," Abbott told reporters.
Monis was convicted and sentenced last year to 300 hours of community service for sending what a judge called "grossly offensive" letters to families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2009. He later was charged with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife. Earlier this year, he was charged with the 2002 sexual assault of a woman. He had been out on bail on all the charges.
"We particularly need to know how someone with such a long record of violence and such a long record of mental instability was out on bail after his involvement in a particularly horrific crime," Abbott said. "And we do need to know how he seemed to have fallen off our security agency's watch list back in about 2009."
Abbott also said Monis, who wielded a shotgun throughout the siege, had a gun license. But the New South Wales police later said they checked with the state firearms registry and found no record of him ever holding a license.
"Plainly there are questions to be asked when someone with such a history of infatuation with extremism, violent crime and mental instability should be in possession of a gun license," Abbott said. "We have very tough gun laws and I guess we can be pleased that he didn't have a more potent weapon at his disposal. But why did he have a gun license in the first place?"
You have to think that if he had been kept on the watch list, it would have been a lot more difficult for him to get out of jail on bail, if at all. The SNAFU appears to be a bureaucratic oversight more than anything related to a lax outlook on Islamism. The Australians take extremism very seriously and have cracked down on Islamists in recent years – especially in the last few months, as concern has grown over Australian Islamists returning from the Middle East to commit acts of terror at home.
Prime Minister Abbott has a lot of explaining to do.