Amirah Droudis and Man Haron Monis in 2014
by Mary W Maxwell, PhD, LLB
Everybody knows that the purpose of a Parliamentary inquiry is usually to cover up what really happened rather than to get at the truth. Same for most Royal Commissions. The Lindt Café Inquest has been relatively probing. But it had a structural failure that probably set everything wrong.
That is, it included two families as parties to the inquest when it should have included three families. The official purpose of the current Inquest is to inquire into the deaths of three persons, one of them being Man Haron Monis.
In Part 18: “Six Serious Shortcomings of the Inquest,” I listed:
- Entrapment was not considered
- Inexplicable things were explained away by pop psychology
- The death of Noleen Pal was unjustifiably skirted over
- Defence force connections were virtually suppressed
- The inquest didn’t pursue “Who ordered the stand-down?”
- No one challenged the police ballistics report
I now add a seventh shortcoming, perhaps the most serious one: The family of the alleged terrorist should have been (and should still be) one of the parties to the Inquest.
To say that a terrorist does not deserve such respectful inclusion is to jump the gun on the question “Was he really a terrorist?” It is inexcusable for an Inquest to skip the opening question, or, should I say, to decide it without argument.
Was Monis a Terrorist?
Let me list just a few things that came out at the hearings that suggest Monis may have not been the terrorist he is cracked up to be. (There is also the whole matter of the siege being a false flag run by someone other than Monis: I won’t go into that now.)
— Monis shot deliberately overhead when six hostages escaped.
— Throughout the day he had treated his hostages leniently.
— Monis didn’t demand say, an uprising of Muslim rebels, but asked for a chat with Tony Abbott and an ISIS flag.
— He did not have any connection to ISIS, the Islamic state.
— Monis did not have a bomb in his backpack, as was first suggested.
— His barrister, Michael Klooter, did not think Monis had the nature of a terrorist.
— Monis’s publicity-seeking capers in the past were on the theme of “Let’s get peace for humanity.”
As I said, those are things that came out at the Inquest itself. So even Monis’ terrorist identity has to be given second thought.
But I think that even if Monis were a rabid terrorist, the Inquest still needs to check on his death — or else refrain from listing his death as one of the foci of the inquest!
The Right of Each Family To Participate
So who will stand up for Monis in the coroner’s court? Who will see that questions are asked about his death? In the case of the other two decedents, Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson, their families stood up for them.
Each family had a say, with the coroner, as to which witnesses would be called. Each family had a say as to the expanding of otherwise-limited questions to officials.
Also, each family was given reserved seats in the courtroom and their presence must have had an emotional effect on court personnel and on media.
I note that Coroner Michael Barnes, at the opening of the hearings, issued a statement of great sympathy for, and consideration of, the bereaved families. But he also said:
“[I want] to caution those unfamiliar with our processes not to assume that when we appear dispassionate we are unconcerned; if we seem clinical, do not conclude we are uncaring; if we are focused on matters forensic, do not fear we have forgotten your grief or how intensively personal it remains.
“If we are to answer the hard questions rightly posed of us by these events we will need to rely on our reason and keep our emotions in check.” [emphasis added]
Does Monis Have a Family?
We in the public have been making an unwarranted assumption that the late Man Haron Monis did not really have any family. Does he have parents or siblings? We don’t know.
How about a spouse? He was married in the 1980s to a woman in Iran who divorced him after he came to Australia without her or their two daughters. He also married an Australian lady, Noleeen, now deceased, murdered.
Monis’ most recent partner, Amirah Droudis, is in prison awaiting trial for that murder. (Note: we do NOT know what the outcome of that will be.)
His two sons by Noleen are in the custody of their maternal grandmother. They are not of legal age to participate but someone could act for them. I imagine there’s even scope for the government of New South Wales to recruit someone to act for them.
The two Iranian daughters are of legal age – around 30, so perhaps Monis has grandchildren, too.
It was said in court that Monis was in touch with his daughters by email in 2014. I think we can assume the Inquest has their email addresses. As for getting a language interpreter for them, that’s par for the course in the Australian judicial system.
I don’t want to be seen as saying that Monis didn’t shoot Tori Johnson. I suspect he did not shoot Tori Johnson but I don’t want to be seen saying it. See? Australians are inhibited from doing anything that could get them labeled as a sympathizer with that awful terrorist.
But a court can conduct an inquiry in a clinical way and not be accused of sympathizing with that awful terrorist. One expects a court to be able to put hypotheticals, even outrageous hypotheticals, as part of their normal work.
At Gumshoe News we are lucky that at least a dozen persons send us useful comments regularly. Two commenters to Part 18 in this series talked about the Inquest’s ballistics report.
Aussiemal (Malcolm Hughes) wrote, on August 10, 2016:
If however as I suspect there has been 23 spent bullets recovered, the NSW Police Service is exonerated from any blame of what happened at this scene. What I have suggested is that there may have been a murderer amongst the coffee drinkers, whose sole purpose was to kill Tori Johnson “from close range.” (If, as Terry suggests, Tori may have been assisting the “real” terrorists to build the mock-up Lindt Café, he could not be allowed to speak privately of it, or be questioned by an inquest.)
I hope that someone to do with the inquest will catch onto this idea and ask the necessary questions.
Terry Shulze (a retired NSW barrister) wrote, on August 10, 2016:
“First things first, clarify the wound to Tori Johnson. If it is a shotgun wound, then when the shotgun discharge occurred should show up at some stage during the audiotape. If it is the LAST discharge on the tape, then I think we have a problem.”
Those same commenters have also made other very pertinent remarks about ballistics elsewhere on Gumshoe. They are not pretending to be experts or to have definitive answers. But at least they ask questions.
What Is Driving This Inquest?
It is obvious that no one at the Inquest asked the aforementioned questions. I have frequently admitted that I do not fully understand what is driving this inquest. You may say why doesn’t Mary go find out? The problem is I do not know what I do not know. I mean I am unsure what’s missing.
Indeed it was only on August 16, 2016 when Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn mentioned “Strike Force Verum” that I knew enough to go look it up! It seems that that is the name of the police investigation that has been carried out on behalf of the coroner.
On 21 March, 2016 when Coroner Michael Barnes opened a new segment of the hearings, he said:
“The detectives being led by Detective Chief Inspector [Angelo] Memmolo operate under the group title Strike Force Verum. To date they have completed 9600 investigative tasks, including the taking of nearly 1100 statements from police officers, experts and civilians witnesses. Technical experts from numerous diverse fields in Australia and elsewhere have been consulted.”
In this day and age I don’t think people normally trust a study done by any branch of government, least of all the police (or, in the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation).
In this case there may even be a conflict of interest to such an arrangement. The most likely candidate for being the killer of one of the parties (Katrina Dawson) is the police. She is said to have died from fragments of one or more police bullets.
In 9news.com.au’s report of the Inquest on June 28, 2016, we read:
“Hostage Katrina Dawson could have been writhing on the floor of the Lindt Cafe after being struck by multiple fragments from police bullets as the Sydney siege came to its fatal conclusion, an inquest has heard. The barrister was found lying face down under tables and chairs in a corner of the Lindt Cafe after police stormed the Martin Place building to end the 2014 siege. She had a pulse when discovered, but later died.”
Who-all Is in the Orchestra Pit?
As I sat in the courtroom in Sydney, I saw a large group of lawyers seated at desks, each having his or her own computer screen. There are 32 seats and usually 22 of them were filled. (On August 16, 2016, I think I counted 30 filled.)
I call this the orchestra pit, as it separates the “stage” (the judge’s bench and witness box) from the “audience” (the visitors’ gallery).
Allow me to make a rough division of the instrumentalists. I shall call the lawyers for the police and for the state government the “brass.” The lawyers for the two families will be “strings.”
The large group of employees of the coroner’s court, including a court reporter who wears headphones, and a clerk whose job it is to maintain a great number of milk-crate-size containers of folders, can be called “woodwinds.”
That leaves the three Counsel Assisiting (Gormly, Callan, and Downing) to get the label “percussion.”
Are the Police a Party to the Inquest?
It is not clear to me if the brass section is there to protect the police organization as such, or to help individual officers in the witness box. Dr Ian Freckelton appears to me to be acting for the police organization.
However, I think I heard one lawyer get up and say “I represent Officer B.” If that is so, probably he is being paid privately for his services by Officer B.
Hmm. Maybe I should take that lawyer out of the brass section and consider him to be strings. That is to say, “the parties” are perhaps not just the families. Any police person who was on duty December 15-16 may be a party? I don’t know.
When I said that brass would include lawyers for government, I had in mind one lawyer who got up and protected the proper secrets of government by not allowing a question to inadvertently reveal a national security strategy.
Note: my musical designations do not have any special meaning; it is just a possible way to discern what is going on.
Monis’ Family Belongs Here
If this Inquest is to be impartial, it should make a provision for the family of the late Man Haron Monis. Never mind if he was a criminal. Never mind if he was a mental case. (And keep in mind that some accused criminals are later acquitted, and that it is hard to specify exactly what constitutes mental illness.)
Monis’ death is under consideration, and he does have four children. He should be represented by some person who will advocate for his interest, or his children’s interest. The two young sons are Aussies and will have a lifetime to cope with all this.
I think it is legally required for them to be parties to the Inquest.
— Mary W Maxwell is the author of Fraud Upon the Court: Reclaiming the Law Joyfully (Oregon: Trine Day, 2015)
Photo credit: News.com.au