Australian TV crew charged with kidnap in Lebanon

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Australia’s Channel Nine reporter Tara Brown and three colleagues have been slammed four charges, including kidnapping in Lebanon.

Prosecutors filed charges against the Australian TV crew over an attempt to abduct two children in a custody dispute.

Five people arrested alongside them, including the children’s Australian mother, have also been charged.

The mother, Sally Faulkner, says her Lebanese ex-husband moved the children to Lebanon without permission.

Channel Nine said it had been “seeking to highlight” cross-border custody disputes.

The Australian journalists and Ms Faulkner were detained by Lebanese police on Thursday along with two British employees of the UK-based company Child Abduction Recovery International (CARI), and two Lebanese men, officials said.

On Tuesday, the official National News Agency reported that Mount Lebanon’s Attorney General, Claude Karam, had filed charges, including participating in an abduction, against the Australian and Lebanese suspects and referred to the case to an investigating magistrate.

CCTV footage broadcast by Lebanese TV appears to show six-year-old Lahala and four-year-old Noah being bundled into a car by several men on a busy street in southern Beirut on Wednesday morning.

They had been heading to school with a domestic worker and their paternal grandmother, who says she was knocked to the ground during the abduction.

On Saturday, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters that diplomats had been in touch with Lebanese officials and were providing consular assistance to Ms Faulkner and the TV crew.

“Given the sensitivities of this case and the fact children are involved, we are handling this very carefully,” she said.

Channel Nine has refused to say whether it paid CARI to recover the children for Ms Faulkner.

However, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Tuesday cited Lebanese officials as saying they had a signed statement from a member of the “recovery team” saying the network had paid A$115,000 ($88,100; £61,600).

Channel Nine said in a statement : “It is extremely important to stress that we are severely limited in what we can say given that matters are now part of a legal process in Lebanon. We are co-operating fully with the Lebanese authorities and it is important to stress that we respect the laws of Lebanon and its judiciary.

“Regrettably a number of inaccurate media reports are exacerbating the concern and confusion of the families of those being detained.”

A Lebanese judicial official told the Associated Press news agency that the investigating magistrate would gather testimony from the suspects beginning on Tuesday.

The magistrate would explore whether Ms Faulkner had custody of the children under Australian law, which might serve as a mitigating factor, the official said.

The custody dispute between Ms Faulkner and her ex-husband, Ali al-Amin, has reportedly been going on for several years.

She says he took the children to Lebanon for a holiday last year but did not return.

Mr Amin told Lebanese media that Ms Faulkner and Australian security agencies knew he was leaving Australia with the children and denied kidnapping them.

He also revealed that he did not plan to sue his former wife, explaining: “She is the mother of my children. If I were her I would have done the same.”

Lebanon is not party to the Hague Convention, a treaty designed to ensure the swift return of children abducted internationally by a parent.

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