Freedom of speech defence in troop families abuse case

A SELF-STYLED Muslim cleric accused of sending offensive letters to the families of soldiers who died in Afghanistan will this week tell the High Court charges against him should be dropped on the grounds they infringed his implied constitutional freedom of political communication.

Man Haron Monis is charged with 12 counts of using a postal service in a menacing, harassing or offensive way, a federal crime which carries a maximum two year jail sentence.

Mr Monis, also known as Sheikh Haron, has been fighting to have the indictment quashed since 2010 but has lost in the District Court and Court of Criminal Appeal. In June, he was granted special leave to appeal to the High Court, where he will argue the legislation is invalid because it substantially curtails the ability of citizens to participate in the political process.

Mr Monis allegedly sent a series of letters to the families of Private Luke Worsley and Lance Corporal Jason Marks, who were killed in Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008.

He is also charged over a letter he sent in 2009 to the family of the Austrade official Craig Senger, who was killed in the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta in 2007.

A key issue to be argued is the correct meaning of the word ''offensive''. In written submissions, Guy Reynolds, SC, for Mr Monis, said the law could catch general media material delivered by post, such as newspapers and magazines, which discuss political and government matters.

The Full Court will hear the matter in Canberra.

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