Lebanon ‘to free Australian TV crew’ held in kidnapping case


A deal has reportedly been reached in Lebanon in the case of an Australian mother and TV crew accused of abducting two children in a custody dispute.

Channel Nine said the children’s Lebanese father, Ali Elamine, had agreed to drop all charges against Sally Faulkner and its four employees.

They are expected to be released soon.

But Channel Nine said Mr Elamine wished to proceed with the prosecution of two Britons who allegedly oversaw the failed attempt to seize the children.

Ms Faulkner says her estranged husband moved the children to Lebanon from Australia last year without her permission – something he denies.

‘Doing their job’

On Wednesday morning, Ms Faulkner and Channel Nine journalist Tara Brown appeared before the judge at a hearing in the Lebanese capital, Beirut.

Later, Nine News correspondent Tom Steinfort wrote on Twitter that a lawyer had emerged from the hearing and announced that the TV crew and Ms Faulkner would be released from custody once Channel Nine had paid “compensation”.

Mr Steinfort quoted the judge as saying: “I release all the Australian crew on bail because Ali Elamine has dropped the charges.”

However, the judge said that the state would still need to decide whether to proceed with criminal charges. If they were filed and the Australians did not return to face them, they would be tried in absentia, he said.

Mr Steinfort said Channel Nine’s lawyer had confirmed that the journalists were free to leave Lebanon and that the broadcaster hoped to have them on a flight out of Beirut on Wednesday night.

Ms Faulkner was charged last Thursday with kidnapping and belonging to a criminal gang.

Ms Brown, along with cameraman Benjamin Williamson, sound recorder David Ballment and producer Stephen Rice, were charged with kidnapping, physical assault, hiding information and criminal conspiracy.

Mr Steinfort quoted Mr Elamine as telling the judge that the TV crew “were just doing their job”, but that Mr Elamine did not want the charges dropped against the two British employees of the UK-based company Child Abduction Recovery International (CARI), Adam Whittington and Craig Michael.

It was not immediately clear what would happen to the two Lebanese men charged in the same case.

The Channel Nine crew allegedly filmed the children being seized as they headed to school in southern Beirut on 6 April with a domestic worker and their paternal grandmother, who says she was knocked to the ground.

CCTV footage shows the children being bundled into a car by several men.
Lebanon is not party to the Hague Convention, a treaty designed to ensure the swift return of children abducted internationally by a relative.


Source: BBC

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