Lebanese court to start taking testimonies of mother and team accused of trying to abduct children.
Sally Faulkner with her five-year-old daughter and three-year-old son.
A Lebanese state prosecutor has extended the detention of an Australian woman, an Australian TV crew and others 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 was brought into police custody last Thursday with four Australians, two Britons and two Lebanese after a botched attempt was made to seize Faulkner’s 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son as they headed for school with their paternal grandmother on Wednesday morning.
Faulkner has accused her Lebanese ex-husband, Ali Elamine, of moving the children from Australia
last year without her permission.
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 last week that the crew was there to cover the story for 60 Minutes.
Lebanon’s state news
agency reported that State Prosecutor Claude Karam would move forward with his investigation after receiving the police report on Monday.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.
An investigative court was to start taking testimonies from the suspects overnight. The accused would be allowed translators and lawyers at their hearings, a judicial official said.
Faulkner has accused her Lebanese ex-husband, Ali Elamine, of moving the children from Australia to Lebanon last year without her permission.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised 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 at a private Beirut hotel, police officials said.
The authorities returned the children to Elamine, 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.
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.