April 7, 2016
An Australian woman who allegedly orchestrated the abduction of her children from their Lebanese father, and an Australian TV crew who police believe were there to film the incident, have been arrested in Beirut.
A British man who was also detained by the Lebanese police is believed to be the captain of a yacht that was moored near Beirut’s Movenpick hotel, preparing to sail away with the children, police sources said.
The detained film crew, including Tara Brown of Nine Network’s 60 Minutes program, were in custody on Thursday and being interrogated by internal security forces investigators.
The children, identified as Lahela al-Amin, six, and her four-year-old brother, Noah, have been returned to the custody of their father, Ali al-Amin, the Lebanese police said.
Lebanese police sources said they believed the Nine Network team had planned to film the kidnapping of the children and their return to the mother, identified in Australian media as Sally Faulkner. The police source told the Guardian officers believed the TV crew was sympathetic to the Australian mother’s cause and had intended to film the kidnapping to publicise the case in Australia.
“They planned to show it in Australia as if it was an operation to save the children, as if they were doing a good thing,” a police source told the Guardian on condition of anonymity.
“The woman made an agreement with the 60 Minutes program from Channel Nine to come help her recover her children from Lebanon,” a security source told Agence France-Presse.
In a tearful interview before the incident, Faulkner told Channel Nine’s A Current Affair her husband had taken the children on a holiday to Lebanon before deciding that he would not bring them back to Australia. But Amin denied any wrongdoing in an interview with local TV.
“They are saying that they were trying to recover the children from their father, as if I’m a criminal or something,” Amin said. “What they are saying in their media over there is untrue. I left Australia with the knowledge of security agencies and I didn’t kidnap anyone.”
Earlier on Thursday, Lebanon’s police force said that three armed individuals aboard a silver Hyundai had snatched the two children while they were waiting with their grandmother for their school bus in the neighbourhood of St Therese in the southern suburbs of Beirut.
Australian consular officials had visited the reporter and TV crew, AAP reported. Channel Nine said officials had reported the 60 Minutes crew were in good physical health, but the team had not had access to a lawyer.
Earlier, the foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, said Australian authorities had been in contact with Channel Nine and had offered “all appropriate consular assistance”
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