Lebanese authorities are expected to decide soon on whether a four-member Australian film crew will face charges in connection with a plot to kidnap two children in a child-custody dispute, Australia’s foreign minister said on Saturday.
Lebanese police have detained the four Australians and accused them of involvement in the kidnapping of the two children from their Lebanese father on behalf of their Australian mother.
“At this stage we understand they are still being held in detention and the question of charges is an issue that will be determined shortly,” foreign minister Julie Bishop told reporters.
The crew members were making a film about the mother’s efforts to recover her children for the Australian current affairs show “60 Minutes”.
“I cannot understate the seriousness with which the Lebanese authorities are viewing the case but we’re doing all we can to maintain contact with all of the parties involved,” Bishop said.
The Australian mother was also in detention in Lebanon, media has reported.
“Given the sensitivities of this case and the fact children are involved, we are handling this very carefully,” Bishop said.
Lebanese Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk was quoted on Thursday as saying the crew were “involved in abducting the two children and detained in respect of their participation in the kidnapping operation”.
CCTV footage broadcast on Lebanese TV had appeared to show the two children, who the father said were aged five and three, being bundled into a car by several attackers on a busy street in southern Beirut. The children’s grandmother told media she had been hit on the head with a pistol during the abduction.
Lebanese media reported on Friday that Brisbane woman Sally Faulkner had been detained and her children returned to their father.
Lebanese father won’t push for charges
The Lebanese father of the two children, Ali el Amien, says he was disappointed with the attempted abduction but won’t push for charges against their Australian mother.
He has been reunited with his children.
el-Amien also said he had access to his ex-wife’s emails and knew that a recovery operation was being planned.
Faulkner claims her ex-husband refused to bring them back to Australia after taking them on holiday to Beirut.
She has long hoped to get her children back to Australia.
Fairfax is reporting that Faulkner has left a three-month-old baby, who she had this year with her new husband, Brendan Pierce, to travel to Lebanon to recover two children from a previous marriage.
On Saturday, Sydney doctor and Muslim leader Jamal Rifi confirmed he had interceded.
Dr Rifi, whose brother Ashraf Rifi is the Lebanese Justice Minister, said he had taken the initiative to call contacts within the justice authorities.
“My only involvement is to make sure the Australian people are being looked after in a humane way,” he said.
Lebanese authorities reportedly have evidence that Channel Nine paid for the abduction of two children.
The authorities say they have a signed statement from a member of the ‘recovery team’ who says Channel Nine paid $115,000 for the operation, reported the ABC
REUTERS AND SKY NEWS