Was Man Haron Monis a terrorist or just a criminal?

A number of people have asserted that  was not an Islamist terrorist but a just a deranged criminal. Terrorist are of course a sub-set of criminals, but putting that aside, what is the evidence for whether this was a terrorist event.

The argument against is that Man Haron Monis was already before the courts on attempted murder and sexual offending. This was not someone who had led a blameless life and suddenly committed crimes after being radicalised. He was  someone facing a lengthy spell in jail, and perhaps thought better to go out in a blaze of publicity – maybe like our Phillip Smith – someone with nothing to lose.

But I don’t think that argument holds up, for multiple reasons. In order:

  1. He was actually free and at large. He shouldn’t have been of course, but he was.
  2. His previous convictions on the letters is directly related to his extreme political views
  3. He displayed a jihadist flag in the window of the cafe
  4. He demanded an flag be delivered to the cafe
  5. He demanded that the media broadcast his actions as an attack on Australia by ISIL
  6. He demanded that the PM be put on the line to him
  7. He made no demands about his court cases or convictions

While I understand why people would prefer to think it was not a terrorist incident, I think they are being naive. Certainly it was not a co-ordinated attack with multiple people. But sadly that is no longer the sole threat. ISIL is very different to other groups in that they have encouraged supporters to do whatever attacks they can manage, without authorisation or endorsement.

The article on news.com.au provides some thinking on what he may have planned to do:

Queensland barrister Patrick Van Grinsven, who spent 21 years with the police and 12 years of them as a counter--qualified specialist negotiator, said police would have been concerned it was providing him with the tools for a horror show.

“If he got the ISIS flag, he could use that to make a very dramatic statement indeed,” said Mr Van Grinsven, who has trained closely with the NSW negotiators on the scene at Martin Place.

As for the media broadcasting his supposed request that Australia was under attack by ISIS, the police requested they not relay his demand for the same reason.

“This person may have been trying to set up an international stage,” said Mr Van Grinsven.

“It could be as serious as trying to do a live execution. We have seen others prepared to do that. This goes through negotiators’ minds.”

It is awful that two innocent people lost their lives. But it could have turned out even worse.

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