Hostage exchange agreement blocked by negotiators

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Police agreed to let Sydney siege gunman Man Haron Monis speak on ABC radio in exchange for the safe release of hostages, but negotiators decided it was too dangerous to grant the request, an inquest has heard.

The NSW Police Negotiation Unit Commander, codenamed Graeme, said just a few hours into the Lindt cafe siege he was told by the officer in charge that police agreed to the gunman’s demand to speak live on ABC radio in exchange for the release of half of the 18 hostages.

The negotiator said the permission was granted by Operational Commander Mick Fuller, who was in charge of the siege at the time, about 11:00am.

But Graeme said he personally thought it was too dangerous to grant the request.

He said it was also inconsistent with Australia’s “Substantive Demand Policy ” about dealing with terrorists – which stipulates not giving in to demands.

The Counsel Assisting, Jeremy Gormly, asked the witness if he had deliberately disobeyed a superior.

“You had a direction … to put an offer to Monis and you decided not to do it ” Mr Gormly said.

Graeme said he did discuss the direction with another negotiator on the ground, codenamed Reg.

The inquest has not heard any evidence that the demand was met and after an 18-hour ordeal, during which police kept a “contain and negotiate” approach, Monis shot and killed cafe manager Tori Johnson.

Decisions about Monis made by police on the ground

After police stormed the cafe and killed Monis, hostage Katrina Dawson died after being hit by police shrapnel.

Earlier today Mr Gormly became angry with the witness for telling the inquest several times that he discussed various matters with colleagues.

“Discuss, discuss, discuss,” Mr Gormly snapped. “I’m asking you about decisions … let’s start again.”

Graeme said decisions about how to deal with Monis were made by police on the ground – but approved by more senior officers in charge of the siege.

The witness said he thought the siege was “politically motivated violence”.

He said he has been with negotiation unit since 1990 and has had a role in developing it and formulating training.

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