Australian cleric sentenced for sending “hate letters” to soldiers’ families

Man Haron Monis was charged for sending "hate letters" to families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan

A Muslim cleric has been charged and sentenced to do community service after he was found guilty of sending “hate letters” to the families of killed Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.

Haron Monis’s letters were described by the Australian courts as “grossly offensive and deplorable” which were sent to the families of deceased Australian troops.

Mr Monis was sentenced to 300 hours of community service and ordered to abide by a two year good behaviour bond on Friday 6 September.

The 49-year-old-cleric from Liverpool, pleaded guilty to 12 charges of using a postal service in a menacing, harassing and offensive way between 2007 and 2009.

He admitted sending letters to eight families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and the family of Craig Senger, an Austrade official killed in a bombing at the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta in 2009.

Judge Mark Marien said the letters were written as a result of Monis’s “very strong political views” about Australia’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan, but said the letters were written very soon after the deaths of the men and came at a time that “would [have been] extremely hurtful and distressing for them.”

Freedom of political expression

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Mr Monis told the court such “freedom of political expression is not an absolute right” and that it was “reckless” to pass on such material to families.

Bree Till, the widow of dead Sergeant Brett Till, was presented with letters at a memorial service for her husband.

In another video message, Monis told a grieving relative “I feel sorry for you but not for him.”

His co-accused Amirah Droudis, 34, pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting him.

She had her sentenced deferred provides she follows a two year bond. Sydney’s District Court previously heard Monis describe his actions as akin to sending “flowers of condolence”.

But Crown Prosecutor John Agius SC said: “If they were flowers we say they were stinging nettles on flesh already laid bare and injured through the death of the deceased.”

The court heard Ms Droudis also appeared in a video sent to Cassandra Marks, the widow of Lance Corporal Jason Marks, saying “We don’t honour Hitler’s soldiers” so Australian soldiers also shouldn’t be decorated for their service.

Judge Marien said before handing down the sentence that he regretted having to quote from the letters in his remarks, knowing they may “cause fresh hurt to relatives in the courtroom”.

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