Australian TV crew fly home after Beirut kidnap deal
Sally Faulkner remains in Beirut for a custody hearing with her divorced ex-husband
An Australian television crew accused of helping a mother kidnap her two children from their father in Lebanon were flying home on Thursday amid reports they struck a multi-million dollar deal with him to drop abduction charges.
Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner and the Channel Nine team were charged last week with abducting Faulkner’s young children on a Beirut street.
But they were released on bail Wednesday after the father, Ali al-Amin, decided not to pursue the charges.
The commercial Nine network did not mention any deal, but The Australian newspaper said “a multi-million dollar deal was struck to drop abduction charges”.
“Nine pays dad to win freedom for crew and mum,” Sydney’s Daily Telegraph headlined, adding that “a massive sum of cash” had been paid in compensation for the botched abduction.
The Sydney Morning Herald said several hundred thousand dollars would be paid, but that an exact figure could not be confirmed.
Star reporter Tara Brown led her producer, cameramen and sound man on to the earliest flight out of Beirut.
“The crew have touched down in Dubai and are expected to arrive in Sydney later this evening,” Nine said.
“It’s great to talk to home. It’s great to be going home,” Brown told 9NEWS after talking to husband John, saying she was told to call home straight away.
Faulkner told the channel she was “just so glad to be out of there”, referring to Lebanon’s women-only jail.
“I mean they treated us well, I can’t complain about that, it’s just the uncertainty that sort of kept me awake at night, not knowing if it was going to be a life-long sentence,” she said.
Faulkner remains in Beirut for a custody hearing with her divorced ex-husband.
The crew and Faulkner still face charges by Lebanon’s public prosecutor, but they can be sentenced in absentia.
They were arrested April 7, a day after her two children were snatched from their grandmother.
Faulkner has said that Amin, from whom she is divorced, took them for a holiday to Beirut and then allegedly refused to return them to Australia.
She had been reportedly working with a child recovery agency to bring back the children, and the TV crew was recording the operation.
Amin’s lawyer Hussein Berjawi said Faulkner’s bail had been set at one million Lebanese pounds (about $660).
However, Amin has not dropped his charges against two Britons and two Lebanese who allegedly helped in the abduction, according to Berjawi.