Iranian ambassador says Monis should have been stopped

Most Australians will remember Man Haron Monis as the gunman whose siege of Sydney’s Lindt Cafe 10 days before Christmas 2014 cost the lives of two innocent people.

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But years before that, Iranian authorities say, Monis had a reputation in Iran for being a cheat and financially corrupt.

In the aftermath of the New South Wales coroner’s report into the siege and deaths, Iranian ambassador Abdolhossein Vahaji has been sharply critical.

“You know, this person was not a normal person. He was not a religious person. He was carrying that uniform that the clergy people were using in order to fool society, to fool the people. He was mentally distorted, and he was psychologically at a problem.”

The Iranian government warned Australia about Monis as early as 2002, seeking the asylum seeker’s extradition to face fraud charges at home.

Interpol was informed, but, because Australia had no extradition agreement with Iran, no action was taken.

Mr Vahajil says what occurred at the Lindt Cafe did not need to happen.

“If … if … we could repatriate that person from Australia to Iran, under any circumstances, under any rules and regulations that we (encountered), if we could do that, I believe that this tragedy would be prevented.”

Australian Muslim communities watched the drama play out in horror, but also in despair.

One of those watching the backlash in some quarters was barrister and communities advocate Bilal Rauf.

“There was a sense of dread. There was a sense of dread because the immediate question as a Muslim and Australian was, ‘Will it be connected in some way with me, with Muslims generally, with Islam more broadly?’ And, sadly, it did come to be conveyed in that way. As it turned out, (people) had started professing and exclaiming anti-Islamic rhetoric, blaming Islam for the event, as being the cause for what had occurred, and that saddened me, it made me upset, it made me angry, that there were these people who were being opportunistic.”

Mr Rauf was just across the street in his high rise office when the siege unfolded.

He knew one of the victims, barrister Katrina Dawson, from university days.

At the memorial to lay flowers, he watched the anti-Islamic group Party for Freedom blaming his religion for the tragedy.

He says he confronted the protest leader and told him much of what he was saying had no basis in Islam and was wrong.

Concerns over a backlash against Muslims sparked the social media campaign I’ll ride with you from others supporting the communities.

The campaign’s founder, Tessa Kum, says she is still surprised by its success.

“The reaction to it was exponentially larger than I had anticipated, to say the least. I think, within an hour or so, it had spread all over Australia, and, a couple of hours after that, it had spread internationally.”

Tessa Kum says she, too, faced a backlash after the campaign but she has no regrets.

“(It was) a really beautiful thing to see how many people took it up and passed it on and shared it, so it was an incredibly loud message. That … that was really something amazing to watch.”

For most Australians, the tragedy is firmly etched in their memories.

Their reactions on the streets as the report comes down more than two years later were varied.

(First:) “I’m interested to see truth for those families who lost their … like Tori and the girl, the lawyer, yeah.”

(Second:) “Never forget that we’re just as vulnerable as the rest of the world, the danger and terrorism, and the dangers that affect the rest of the world. We’re not excluded just because of our geography.”

(Third:) “I mean, obviously, it was a one off event, in my opinion, so I don’t feel any threats whatsoever, no.”