Sally Faulkner, who allegedly hired professionals to snatch her children from Beirut last week, was offered kidnapping charges to be dropped if she relinquishes custody of her children, according to reports yesterday. This is on the condition she will have full access rights, but must never take the children back to Australia.
The children’s father and Faulkner’s estranged husband, Ali Elamine, took the children to Lebanon on holiday in 2014 and never returned them to their Brisbane home. Faulkner was granted sole custody of the children, Lahela and Noah, by the Family Court of Australia in December of last year. Faulkner’s lawyer, Ghassan Moghabghab, said Lebanese religious authorities had granted the father full custody.
In remarks to Australian news service ABC News, Moghabghab said money supplied by the Australian current affairs program 60 Minutes was paid to Child Abduction Recovery International, who conducted the abduction last week.
Mr Moghabghab has declined to make further statements, saying it may influence legal negotiations. The Nine Network has also refused to comment on allegations of giving A$115,000 to Faulkner either as payment for rights to the story or to fund the abduction.
The 60 Minutes news crew was remanded in custody beside Faulkner on Wednesday. They face potential jail time of up to 20 years. The crew’s charges include kidnapping, physical assault, withholding information and forming an association to commit a crime against a person. The case has been adjourned until Monday. Judge Rami Abdullah says there is “no chance” of the charges being dropped against the 60 Minutes crew.
According to Child Recovery Australia, less than half of Australian children abducted by a parent are returned through legal means. Lebanon isn’t party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says Australia is making every effort to support the crew and Faulkner, but the legal jurisdiction of Lebanon has to be respected.
UPDATE No deal
Mr Moughabghab, says although Judge Rami Adbullah had “pushed” Ali Elamine and Ms Faulkner to reach agreement over the custody of the couple’s two children, Lahala, 6, and Noah, 4, behind-the-scene talks had broken down.
“I met the lawyer of Mr Elamine, he put his conditions, we accepted all of them and yet now I am told they will not accept the agreement,” Mr Moughabghab told Australian Associated Press.
As part of the agreement, Ms Faulkner would give up custody of her children, proceed with the divorce in Lebanon and would be allowed to see her children, Mr Moughabghab said. All that was left to settle was whether she could see them in Lebanon, Australia or a third country such as nearby Cyprus, he said.
“She will even give up the sole custody granted to her by the Australian (Family) Court if he agrees to drop the charges,” Mr Moughabghab said.
“It seems Mr Elamine is not interested in a settlement,” he said. “Maybe he wants to savour his joy at her predicament a bit longer.”
In refusing to reach an agreement with his wife, Mr Elamine is also reportedly not keen to drop the charges against the 60 Minutes team amid allegations the Nine Network contributed $115,000 to the child recovery operation.
The network has refused to comment on the allegations.
Nawal Berri, the cousin of Ali Elamine, told Fairfax Media that Mr Elamine’s mother, Ibtissam Berri, 69, is refusing to drop the charges of personal assault against her.
“She has pressed charges and was in hospital until recently,” Ms Nawal Berri said on Saturday.
She underwent her second check up with her doctor on Friday, Mr Elamine told News Corp.
He declined to confirm reports a weapon was used on his mother during the bungled kidnapping.
The grandmother Mrs Berri gave a tearful interview to OTV, a local television network, claiming she was struck on the head with a sharp object and dragged along the ground.
The attempt to snatch the children as they were walking with Mr Elamine’s mother and a nanny on April 7 was captured on CCTV and appeared to show one of the women being shoved as their children were taken.
However Mr Moughabgab, claimed the grandmother of the children was not injured.
Mr Elamine denied the two parties had been close to reaching agreement, saying “Faulkner’s lawyer is trying to draft something but it still has to go through the legal process”.
Mr Moughabghab, who has been pursuing Mr Elamine over the custody dispute for nine months, said he had not even been able to serve court papers on the children’s father.
“Every time we attempted to present him with the documents he disappeared and after about a month-and-a-half, the clerk of the court was too frightened to keep going to his place,” Mr Moughabghab said.
Ms Faulkner who is being held in Baabda women’s prison, is facing a difficult situation, her lawyer said.
“She is not accustomed to be in prison, especially in a Lebanese prison, it is not something very nice to experience but she is being visited regularly by representatives from the embassy who are helping her,” he said.
WIKI NEWS – SMH
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