22 Apr 2016

Mother and TV crew released in Lebanon

10:32 am on 22 April 2016

A judge in Lebanon has released Australian mother Sally Faulkner and a Channel Nine TV crew on bail after Ms Faulkner's estranged husband dropped all charges against them.

Australian TV presenter Tara Brown (back) and Sally Faulkner, an Australian woman accused of abducting her children from her ex husband, are released from prison on April 20, 2016

Australian TV presenter Tara Brown (back) and Sally Faulkner are released from prison in Beirut. Photo: AFP

The 60 Minutes team had been in jail since being accused of involvement in an operation to snatch Ms Faulkner's children off a street in Beirut nearly two weeks ago.

The five Australians are set to be released into the custody of the Australian Embassy before reporter Tara Brown and the crew's other three members fly home.

Ms Faulkner's estranged husband, Ali el-Amien, struck a deal that saw the charges abandoned, but is still pursuing the child recovery crew who snatched his young son and daughter from their grandmother.

The group is expected to fly out of Beirut airport in the coming hours, but could be asked to return if the state lodges criminal charges.

"We are pleased to hear news of the release of Ms Faulkner and the four 60 Minutes crew members on bail," a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said.

"It is premature to comment on how soon the released Australians will be able to depart Lebanon, or any conditions attached to their release."

Judge Rami Abdullah said the crew and Ms Faulkner were still facing public prosecution charges of kidnapping and being members of a criminal gang and may be required to return to Lebanon if the state decided to go ahead with the prosecution.

However, he said: "They are free to leave Lebanon."

A screenshot from CCTV footage showing the alleged abduction attempt.

A screenshot from CCTV footage showing the alleged abduction attempt. Photo: ABC / Channel 9

Outside court Ms Faulkner's Lebanese lawyer, Ghassan Moghabghab, said the Brisbane woman was feeling "happy and sad".

"Sad because of her story and sad because she will - her children will stay with their father ... taking into consideration the Lebanese law, he is in his rights.

"And happy that she was released, obviously."

Mr el-Amien, also speaking after Wednesday's court appearance, said: "This is the most stressful thing I've ever experienced in my life. I hope no-one ever experiences it."

Asked what was next for the couple's children, he said they would "carry on with their regular lives" and "we'll figure out something with Sally".

He added: "She can come to Lebanon and if she cannot come ... they will decide together which country she will visit."

"I am glad it's over. She is their mother and I don't want them growing up and thinking 'Daddy had the option of letting Mummy off easily and he didn't," he said.

Child Abduction Recovery International's Adam Whittington, a joint British-Australian national, and two Lebanese local employees who were hired as freelancers for the 60 Minutes job, as well a British national who came in from Cyprus, are still facing charges.

They will appear before the judge again on Thursday.

Mr Moghabghab said he was not aware of any compensation as part of the agreement.

The lawyer acting for the Nine Network, Kamal Aboudaher, said on Monday the broadcaster had not offered any financial compensation to Mr el-Amien.


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