60 Minutes saga: Nine Network says it will not help members of CARI facing charges in Lebanon

April 21, 2016 6:54 am

Craig Michael and Adam Whittington (R) in a still from the ITV documentary Abducted. The pair remain in jail in Beirut over a bungled child snatch involving ’s 60 Minutes. Photo / Supplied

The Nine Network says it feels no obligation to help members of a child recovery group left in jail after a botched kidnapping in .
The network has been criticised for securing the release of its 60 Minutes crew and the mother of two children snatched in a Beirut street, but leaving members of the Child Abduction Recovery International (CARI) to the mercy of the Lebanese court system.
A spokeswoman for Nine confirmed to .com.au that some compensation was paid to the father Ali Elamine to help secure their release but would not comment on how much money changed hands.

Father Ali Elamine leaveing court on April 18. Photo / Getty ImagesFather Ali Elamine leaveing court on April 18. Photo / Getty Images

“There was compensation as announced by the judge, we are not discussing details,” the spokeswoman said.

When asked about suggestions Nine had abandoned the group, she said: “We had no contractual relationship with them in the first place and still have no obligations to them”.But when asked why Nine had not included the four members of CARI in the deal, she said: “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.”
Responses to further questions were even more blunt.
Asked if Nine would be doing anything to assist the group, she said: “no”.
And when asked whether Nine felt any obligation to the group and ensuring their release, there was another: “no”.
The lawyer for the two men who led the kidnapping attempt, CARI’s British-Australian boss Adam Whittington and British national Craig Michael, has already slammed Nine for abandoning the men.Video
“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,” Joe Karam told reporters outside the Palace of Justice.
The two men remain in jail over their role in the kidnapping attempt, and the fate of two Lebanese also charged over the operation remains unclear.
Former Labor leader Mark Latham said Nine should help the child recovery 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,” Mr Latham told rival Seven breakfast show Sunrise.
But sympathy for the group could be limited.
Lawyer Ghassan Moghabghab told Channel Seven his client, mother Sally Faulkner, does not hold the Nine Network or the 60 Minutes crew responsible.

Sally Faulkner of Australia with her children Lahela aged 6 years (centre) and Noah aged 4 years.Sally Faulkner of Australia with her children Lahela aged 6 years (centre) and Noah aged 4 years.

“They helped her in a way or another to pay the company who issue the action in Beirut,” he said. “They wanted to get the scoop and they paid everything to help Sally try to reach her children.”
But he added: “If she wants to blame somebody, I think she should blame the company that made up the job. It was an unprofessional job.”
Lawyer Wafa Hoballah of WJH Law Group has dealt with the legal system in Lebanon, and said the men were being treated differently to the mother and television crew.
“But they committed more of a crime than others, yes the crew were shooting but these were the ones who actually did the kidnapping. They pushed the grandmother and grabbed the children,” the US based lawyer told news.com.au.Video
However, she said the lawyer representing the men was well-known in the country and it was likely an agreement would be reached with political support from government representatives.
She said there was no way the first agreement between 60 Minutes, the mother and father would have been reached so quickly otherwise.
“So I think there will be a settlement, but probably it won’t be as quick as they hoped,” she said.
As to whether Nine should help the group, Ms Hoballah said any arrangement between them was simply a business deal.
“I see it as a business deal so if the business deal says they are not responsible (if something goes wrong) then they are not responsible,” she said.
“I think it’s a good strategy for Channel Nine to distance themselves from the group’s actions,
particularly because they pushed the grandmother.
“Sure they were paid (for the kidnapping) but no force had to be used, there was no reason to do that.”
Others have also been critical of the kidnapping.
Rival agency Child Rescue Australia described the attempted abduction as dangerous and amateurish.
Earlier this month, the men seized two children from a Beirut street as they were walking with their Lebanese grandmother.
They were taken to a safe house south of Beirut but were soon arrested along with the 60 Minutes crew who were filming the operation.
“Do they think they are the SAS taking Bin Laden off the street? It was bizarre,” Col Chapman previously told news.com.au, referring to the failed sting by his main rival.
He said the TV crew were lucky not to be shot given “guns are everywhere” in Lebanon.
“Doing it in a busy street, underneath CCTV cameras … I don’t know if you saw the footage but that’s horrific what the kids were exposed to,” Mr Chapman told ABC radio.
“They were spear-tackled almost into the back of the car. I’m very critical of it, as you can guess. (It was) very amateurish, very dangerous.”
Ms Faulkner and the 60 Minutes crew were released from jail Wednesday afternoon (local time) after father Ali Elamine agreed to drop his personal charges against them.
The 60 Minutes crew – journalist Tara Brown, producer Stephen Rice, cameraman Ben Williamson and sound recordist David Ballment – flew out of Lebanon early on Thursday (AEST).
Ms Faulkner remains in Beirut for another day to visit the courtroom to see her children, Lahela, 5, and Noah, 3, and sort out custody arrangements.
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