Witness’s regrets over ‘childlike’ Monis

A Muslim community spokesman has described Sydney Lindt Cafe gunman Man Haron Monis as childlike and eager for attention, and says he continues to “beat himself up” for not recognising him during the siege.

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Islamic Friendship Association founder Keysar Trad says he would have tried to negotiate with Monis if he’d known it was him holding 18 people hostage last December.

Mr Trad told the siege inquest he met Monis years before the siege and found him “childlike” but an attention-seeker with disturbing behaviour.

When Monis took people hostage in the Lindt Cafe, forcing one to hold an Islamic flag in the window, Mr Trad offered to help police with negotiations without knowing who the gunman was.

He learned the following morning after police had raided the cafe, killing Monis after he shot cafe manager Tori Johnson.

Lawyer Katrina Dawson lost her life in the raid as well.

“One thing that I’ve beat myself over a lot since the siege is why I didn’t recognise him,” Mr Trad said on Thursday after giving evidence.

“He had changed so much that not even the police officers or the prison wardens where he served in prison … no one recognised him.

“But the little knowledge I have of this person, I continue to feel that we would have liked to have a go at talking him down.”

Mr Trad is expected to testify again when the inquest turns its attention to the actual events of the siege itself early next year.

The court heard Mr Trad contacted police during the siege and offered his assistance.

On Thursday he said he first heard of Monis about 2007, when the self-anointed Islamic sheikh was in the news for sending offensive letters to the families of dead Australian soldiers.

Monis requested to meet Mr Trad, who had criticised his actions, and arrived at a suburban park wearing robes and a turban.

Rather than being angry about Mr Trad’s criticism, he asked for advice about how he could promote his “message” and was excited at the suggestion he could meet the-then mufti of Australia, Sheik al-Hilaly.

Monis was “childlike”, Mr Trad said, open to suggestion and eager for attention.

“He wanted his voice to be out there, to be discussed in public,” Mr Trad said.

He only saw Monis on two more occasions, then did not hear of him for years until the siege.

Iranian refugee activist Cyrous Sarang told the inquest he phoned the Australian Federal Police about Monis after encountering him chained to the fence of NSW parliament house in Sydney around 2011.

Monis was going by the name of Sheikh Haron but Mr Sarang said he knew Monis by a different name and that Monis claimed to have worked for the Iranian secret service before he left Iran.

The hearing will continue on Friday.