Mum, 60 Minute TV crew ‘free to leave Lebanon’

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Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner and an Australian 60 Minutes crew are free to leave Lebanon after charges were dropped over the botched recovery of her children in Beirut, but could still be ordered back to the country.

Faulkner’s estranged husband Ali Elamine agreed to drop the personal charges against the Australians in a Beirut court on Wednesday.

Judge Rami Abdullah said Faulkner, 60 Minutes journalist Tara Brown and her crew Benjamin Williamson, David Ballment and Stephen Rice would be released from jail on bail.

“They are free to leave Lebanon,” he said.

They had been in jail since being arrested two weeks ago when a child recovery team seized Faulkner’s young children, Lahela and Noah, from a Beirut street as they were walking with their Lebanese grandmother.

But they are 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 decides to go ahead with the prosecution, Judge Abdullah said.

“Everybody is happy,” Nine Network lawyer Kamal Aboudaher said outside court on Wednesday.

Faulkner’s lawyer Ghassan Moghabghab told AAP earlier on Wednesday an agreement had been negotiated between Faulkner and Elamine, in which she gives up custody of the two children in return for her release.

When Moghabghab was asked whether the deal involved a payment to Elamine, he replied: “For my part it does not involve money, I don’t know about the other party (the Nine Network).

Under the deal it is understood the Nine Network will be required to pay compensation in order to drop the charges.

But Aboudaher had said on Monday the broadcaster hadn’t offered any financial compensation to Elamine.

Faulkner and Brown were brought from Baabda Women’s Prison into the Palace of Justice in handcuffs, while the three crew were cuffed to each other.

Faulkner, Brown, the crew and Elamine all met with Judge Abdullah in his office.An Australian embassy official also attended the court.

The fate of Britons Adam Whittington, who was allegedly in charge of the operation, and Craig Michaels, as well as two Lebanese involved, remains unclear.

source:skynews.com.au

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