Who is Sydney hostage taker ‘Sheikh Haron’?

Man Haron Monis, also known as “Sheikh Haron,” is the Iranian refugee who took about 40 people hostage at Sydney, Australia’s Lindt Chocolate Cafe in the morning of Dec. 15. Haron has had a sordid history since emigrating to Australia in 1996, and appears to consider himself a recent convert to Sunni Islam from Shiite Islam. He is a self-styled sheikh facing multiple charges of sexual assault as well as being an accessory to murder. Haron wrote on his own website that he “promotes peace” and that all the criminal charges against him are a set-up, comparing himself to Julian Assange, currently holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid facing rape charges in Sweden. Although he was known to the authorities, security experts said preventing attacks by people acting alone could be difficult.

Today’s crisis throws into sharp relief the dangers of lone wolf terrorism.

Cornell University law professor Jens David Ohlin

Until now, Haron achieved a minor amount of criminal notoriety in Australia. He mounted a Westboro Baptist Church-style campaign against the widows and loved ones of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan, sending offensive letters to them and also to the survivors of an Australian official murdered in the terrorist bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta in 2009. He has frequently behaved strangely in court, appearing draped in chains for one court date in 2009, and chaining himself to the Sydney courthouse steps, and seeking to represent himself despite repeated warnings from the judge that that would likely increase his chance of conviction. Last Friday, he lost his final appeal for his conviction of sending threatening letters to the family of dead Australian soldiers.