Lebanon expected to press charges against Australian mother

AP News
Posted: Apr 11, 2016 2:25 PM
Lebanon expected to press charges against Australian mother

BEIRUT (AP) — A Lebanese state prosecutor has extended the detention of an Australian woman, an Australian TV crew, and others Monday on suspicion of attempted kidnapping after assailants tried to snatch the woman's two children from their father's care in Beirut last week.

Sally Faulkner, along with four Australians, two Britons, and two Lebanese, was brought into police custody last Thursday after a botched attempt was made to seize Faulkner's five-year-old daughter and three-year-old son as they headed for school with their paternal grandmother Wednesday morning.

Faulkner has accused her Lebanese ex-husband, Ali Al-Amin, of moving the children from Australia to Lebanon without her permission in 2015.

The detainees include prominent Australian TV presenter Tara Brown and her crew from Channel Nine TV. A reporter from the station said in an interview broadcast Thursday that the crew was there to cover the story for 60 Minutes.

Michael Brown said it was a "risky operation, a risky story — this desperate Australian mum trying to get her two children home," but said the crew was prepared for the difficulties.

Lebanon's state news agency reported that State Prosecutor Claude Karam would move forward with his investigation after receiving the police report Monday.

An investigative court will take testimonies from the suspects beginning Tuesday. They will be allowed translators and lawyers at their hearings, a judicial official said.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly, said the judiciary would explore whether Faulkner has the right to custody of the children under Australian law, which could serve as a mitigating factor in the investigation.

The children's grandmother, Ibtisam Berri, said she and a domestic worker were taking the children to school last Wednesday when two men jumped out of a parked car and took the children away. She said a cameraman was filming the scene from the car.

At least one of the Britons is being held on suspicion that he planned to smuggle the children out of Lebanon on his boat, docked in a private Beirut hotel, police officials said.

The authorities returned the children to Al-Amin, who told a local TV station that he would not sue his former wife. "She is the mother of my children ... if I were her I would have done the same," he told LBC last Thursday.

He told Al Jadeed TV that Faulkner and Australian security agencies knew he was leaving Australia with the children and denied kidnapping them from their mother.

Lebanon is not party to the Hague Convention, which provides recourse to parents who claim their children have been abducted internationally.