Nine Network’s 60 Minutes crew has returned to Australia after their detention in Lebanon for two weeks due to their alleged botched kids recovery mission coverage.
Reporter Tara Brown, producer Stephen Rice, cameraman Ben Williamson, and sound recordist David Ballment were accused of helping a Brisbane mother in snatching her kids from her ex-husband and their father, Ali el-Amien. The Lebanon authorities arrested the crew and the mother, Sally Faulkner, on kidnapping charges for further court proceedings. However, the crew members have been allowed to leave Lebanon and return to Australia.
The verdict came following the child recovery firm lawyer’s production of the document in court that proved the TCN Channel Nine paid around $70,000 to the firm. The lawyer is still fighting the charges of child abduction at the court in Beirut, Lebanon. The ABC reported that the team boarded the plane that landed at the Sydney airport at around 10:00 p.m. on Thursday. “I am just so glad to be home, I am really very happy to be home,” Brown told the media before entering the car at the airport.
The court gave its verdict on Wednesday to release the 60 Minutes crew members while Judge Rami Abdullah ordered Faulkner to stay until Thursday morning for the next hearing to be attended by El-Amien. The father agreed to drop the charges against Faulkner and the media outlet crew members. He added he wanted a divorce and asked Faulkner to give up the custodial rights given to her by the Australian court. Faulkner agreed to the conditions.
Four-year-old Noah and 6-year-old Lahela’s father described the situation as “intense.” “I told her this is all over and the custody of the children, you have to drop the custody charges and all that,” he said as quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald.
“She was a bit upset, you can’t separate children, they need to stay in one unit and at the moment, where she’s at I don’t think that’s the right place for them to be,” he added.