A joint Australian-Lebanese commission has been set up to examine a controversial child abduction case in which several Australian nationals have been charged, Lebanon’s top diplomat announced Wednesday.
Lebanese authorities on Tuesday charged Australian mother Sally Faulkner and four employees of Australia’s Channel Nine television over the abduction of her two children last week.
Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil met with Australia’s ambassador Glenn Miles and said a joint committee would “resolve the legal crisis in the custody case of the two children”, Lebanon’s National News Agency reported.
Faulkner has said the children’s Lebanese father, from whom she is divorced, took them for a holiday to Beirut and then allegedly refused to return them to Australia.
She had reportedly been working with a child recovery agency to bring back the children, and the Channel Nine “60 Minutes” crew was recording the operation.
Faulkner and the crew, along with two Britons and two Lebanese nationals, were preliminarily charged on Tuesday and are facing further questioning.
Both children, who Australian media said are a six-year-old girl and a four-year-old boy, are now with their father in a southern Beirut suburb.
Bassil said he was working to ensure “the case takes its legal course in accordance with Lebanese laws”.
But he pledged to take into consideration Faulkner’s “claim to her two children on the one hand, and on the other, the case of the journalists who were trying to get a scoop”.
A statement from Channel Nine on Tuesday confirmed that its journalists were faced with “being charged with offences related to kidnapping”.
It named the crew members as reporter Tara Brown, producer Stephen Rice, cameraman Ben Williamson and sound recordist David Ballment.
A spokeswoman for Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the allegations would now be considered by an investigative judge.
A grainy video of the incident released by Lebanon’s Al-Jadeed television showed the children walking with an elderly person said to be their grandmother.
Several figures jump out of a nearby car and carry the children into the vehicle, which then speeds off.