Cleric 'sent hate mail' to bereaved families

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The Independent Online

A Muslim activist who calls himself an ayatollah faces up to 14 years in prison after allegedly sending offensive letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan, police said today.



Sheikh Haron, who also uses the name Ayatollah Manteghi Boroujerdi, was charged with using the postal system to "menace, harass or cause offense" by sending the letters to the relatives of Australian casualties, an Australian Federal Police statement said.

The Iranian-born Haron, 45, did not enter a plea when he appeared in a Sydney court on seven counts of sending offensive letters.

Each charge carries a potential maximum sentence of two years in prison. He was released on bail and told to report back on November 10.

Australia has lost 11 soldiers in Afghanistan since joining the US-backed invasion in 2001. Police would not say how many families of those casualties received mail from Haron.

The letters accused the dead soldiers of being "criminals," "killers" and "murderers" fighting a war of invasion, The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported.

"A Jewish man who kills innocent Muslim civilians is not a pig, he is a thousand times worse," said one letter, sent to the Jewish family of 30-year-old Private Greg Sher, who was killed by a Taliban rocket in January, The Australian newspaper reported.

Pte Sher's father, Felix Sher, said the family was shocked by the letter, but told the Fairfax Radio Network today: "There is no point in getting angry or upset, nothing is going to be achieved by it."

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