Lebanon child abduction charges against mother may be dropped in exchange for custody

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Sally Faulkner, who allegedly hired professionals to snatch her children from Beirut last week, was offered kidnapping charges to be dropped if she relinquishes custody of her children, according to reports yesterday. This is on the condition she will have full access rights, but must never take the children back to Australia.

The children's father and Faulkner's estranged husband, Ali el-Amien, took the children to Lebanon on holiday in 2014 and never returned them to their Brisbane home. Faulkner was granted sole custody of the children, Lahela and Noah, by the Family Court of Australia in December of last year. Faulkner's lawyer, Ghassan Moghabghab, said Lebanese religious authorities had granted the father full custody.

In remarks to Australian news service ABC News, Moghabghab said money supplied by the Australian current affairs program 60 Minutes was paid to Child Abduction Recovery International, who conducted the abduction last week.

Mr Moghabghab has declined to make further statements, saying it may influence legal negotiations. The Nine Network has also refused to comment on allegations of giving A$115,000 to Faulkner either as payment for rights to the story or to fund the abduction.

The 60 Minutes news crew was remanded in custody beside Faulkner on Wednesday. They face potential jail time of up to 20 years. The crew's charges include kidnapping, physical assault, withholding information and forming an association to commit a crime against a person. The case has been adjourned until Monday. Judge Rami Abdullah says there is "no chance" of the charges being dropped against the 60 Minutes crew.

According to Child Recovery Australia, less than half of Australian children abducted by a parent are returned through legal means. Lebanon isn't party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says Australia is making every effort to support the crew and Faulkner, but the legal jurisdiction of Lebanon has to be respected.