Muslim activists in Australia lose free speech case
Iranian-born Man Horan Monis, a self-styled Sydney cleric also known as Sheik Haron, was charged with 12 counts of using a postal service in an offensive way and one count of using a postal service in a harassing way over three years until 2009. Amirah Droudis was charged with aiding and abetting the offences. They face potential maximum prison sentences of 26 years and 16 years respectively if convicted.
The six judges of the High Court split on whether the charges were compatible with Australians' right to free speech. When the nation's highest court is tied, an appeal is dismissed and the lower court decision stands.
That sends the charges to a lower court where they will be heard on a date to be set.
Monis allegedly wrote letters critical of Australia's military involvement in Afghanistan and condemning the dead soldiers. He also allegedly wrote to the mother of an Australian official killed in a terrorist bomb blast in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2009 and blamed Australian government foreign policy for the tragedy.
His lawyer David Bennett argued in the High Court last year that the letters were "purely political.'' He argued the charges were invalid because they infringed on Australians' right to freedom of political communication.
The Australian Constitution doesn't include an equivalent of the U.S. First Amendment. But the High Court has