The father of the two children involved in 60 Minute’s botched ‘child recovery’ scandal in Beirut has demanded US$500,000 (AUD $670,000) for the release of the four recovery agents who have been behind bars since April 6.
Ali Elamine has said he will drop all kidnapping charges against Adam Whittington and three of his colleagues in exchange for the payment, The Australian reported.
One of the men in prison is Adam Whittington, a former Australian soldier, whose parents are calling on the Nine Network to put up the money to have their son freed.
“Please, please, Channel Nine help us. Bring Adam home. It was their fault, it went wrong. They can’t just put the blame on Adam,” Georgina Whittington told The Australian.
“I feel it is their [Nine’s] responsibility.”
The emotional mother said her family did not have “that type of money”.
Mr Whittington runs Child Abduction Recovery International (CARI) and was paid $69,000 by the Nine Network to carry out the task of snatching Mr Elamine’s children.
The children’s Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner, along with 60 Minutes presenter Tara Brown and her crew, were detained in Beirut for two weeks before the network reportedly paid $500,000 for their release.
Ms Faulkner was freed on the condition that she relinquish custody of her kids to Mr Elamine.
Only hours after gaining their freedom, the television crew was on a flight back to Australia, photographed celebrating with champagne at the airport lounge.
The network copped severe backlash from the Australian public, who believed Mr Whittington and his colleagues had been abandoned and should have been included in the plea deal made.
Nine, on the other hand, said it felt ‘no obligation’ to help the recovery team they hired.
“They are not part of our team, they have their own legal advice and process to go through, we were journalists covering a story of an Australian mother trying to be reunited with her children,” a Nine Network spokeswoman told News.com.au.
“We had no contractual relationship with them in the first place and still have no obligations to them.”
Joe Karam, the lawyer representing two of the men from CARI, begged to differ.
“Ethically it wasn’t appropriate for Channel Nine to arrange for a deal and not include the man they asked to execute for them something,” he said.
Mr Whittington’s wife Karin made an emotional plea on Facebook last week, saying she has had no support from the network since her husband had been detained.
“No one has had the decency to contact me from the Australian authorities or from Channel Nine, who left him behind to give me and my children one thought,” she wrote.
“We are still hoping that someone is going to take some responsibility and not dismiss it all to cover up for their own mistakes.
“Why don’t you protect and help the men you deserted instead? What kind of justice is this?”
Even formal Labor leader Mark Latham told Sunrise he believed the network should have provided assistance to the group.
“(If Nine) had any decency in the circumstances, having paid the so-called child recovery crew, they would have some regard for their interests instead of leaving them behind in the jail cell,” he said on April 21.
The attempted ‘recovery’ took place on April 6 as Ms Faulkner and Mr Elamine’s children Lahela, 5, and Noah, 3, were walking down a Beirut street with their Lebanese grandmother.
A Nine spokeswoman on Thursday would not comment on Mrs Whittington’s calls to pay Mr Elamine, saying the entire matter was one for the Lebanese legal system.
The $670,00 deal, if agreed upon, is also expected to secure the release of Mr Whittington’s colleagues Craig Michael, Khaled Barbour and Mohammed Hamza
Judge Rami Abdullah is continuing to investigate the case and will decide if any formal charges are to be laid against any of those arrested over the attempted abduction.