Sydney cafe siege
Man Haron Monis was identified as the hostage taker in Sydney, Australia. Police officers gesture near the Lindt cafe in Martin Place, where hostages were being held, in central Sydney, Monday, Dec. 15, 2014. Reuters/David Gray

Man Haron Monis, otherwise known as Sheikh Haron, has been identified by Australian police as the man holding around 20 people hostage in a Sydney café, according to local media reports. Monis is an Iranian and self-styled Muslim cleric who was granted political asylum by Australia in 1996.

Monis, age 50, was facing 40 sexual and indecent assault charges for acts committed during his time as a paid “spiritual healer,” according to The Age. He also was charged with accessory to his ex-wife’s murder in 2013. He was also convicted for a string of derogatory letters sent to the families of dead Australian soldiers, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and was ordered to conduct 300 hours of community service and put on a two-year good behavior program.

Monis took around 40 people hostage at a Sydney Lindt café Monday morning Sydney time. At least five have escaped. Monis made some of the others hold up a black flag with a declaration of faith to Allah and Muhammad in the window. He also made some statements to a camera in front of the black flag and requested that the similar flag of the Islamic State group be delivered to him, according to the BBC.

His website [WARNING, GRAPHIC CONTENT] was suspended as of 10 a.m. Monday EST. At one time, it showed photographs of children he claims were killed by American airstrikes. He appears to advocate “crime” as a means for peace.

Man Haron Monis, the man identified as the hostage taker in Sydney. Screen capture of his now suspended website,

“Islam is the religion of peace, that's why Muslims fight against the oppression and terrorism of USA and its allies, including U.K. and Australia,” he said. “If we stay silent towards the criminals we cannot have a peaceful society. The more you fight with crime, the more peaceful you are. Islam wants peace on the Earth, that's why Muslims want to stop terrorism of America and its allies. When you speak out against crime you have taken one step towards peace.”

Monis also wrote to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott here, in which he criticized Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan since the 9/11 attacks.