LEBANON/AUSTRALIA – TV crew arrested over attempted kidnapping
BEIRUT –– An Australian television crew is among several people arrested in Beirut on suspicion of being involved in an attempt to kidnap two children.
Four members of the crew, from the Nine Network’s 60 Minutes program, were among nine people detained last week, Lebanese Internal Security said.
Those arrested are alleged to have been involved in an attempt by Australian Sally Faulkner to recover her two children –– Lahela, six, and Noah, four –– from her former husband, Lebanese national Ali al Amin.
Lebanese police confirmed that two British nationals, two Lebanese and five Australians, including the children’s mother, had been arrested in connection to the kidnapping, which allegedly occurred in Beirut on Wednesday.
The children had since been returned to their father, police said.
A spokeswoman for Nine Network said that the broadcaster was “working with [Australian] authorities there and local legal representation to get our crew home as soon as possible”.
On the regular 60 Minutes program on Sunday, host Michael Usher said the network was “doing its utmost to support” detained correspondent Tara Brown, producer Stephen Rice, cameraman Ben Williamson and sound recordist David Ballment.
A Lebanese police spokesman told CNN that the group is awaiting a court hearing, and that a detailed report on the alleged abduction should be issued later Monday.
He added that authorities have video showing a television cameraman at the scene of the incident.
The arrests follow a long campaign by the children’s mother to bring them home to Australia.
In a change.org petition posted last year, Faulkner pleaded with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to help get her children back.
“They were terrifyingly put on a plane by my ex-husband and I haven’t heard from them since,” Faulkner said in the petition, which attracted more than 33,000 signatures.
“This has been going on for quite some time,” Peter Ford, an Australian media reporter who broke the story, told CNN.
“[Faulkner] did invite the 60 Minutes crew to become involved in her story –– what happened beyond that we don’t quite know.”
A Nine Network spokeswoman declined to comment on Australian media reports that the broadcaster had been involved in setting up payments to a child recovery service involved in the alleged kidnapping.
“We’re not making any comment about payment –– we don’t ever make any comment about payment.”
The spokeswoman added: “They’re journalists covering a story –– that’s all.”
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said consular officials had met with the detained crew and were providing assistance.