Lebanon kidnap charges for Australian mother and men

Screengrab of CCTV video appearing to show abduction of two children in Beirut on 6 April 2016 Image copyright Lebanese TV
Image caption CCTV footage broadcast by Lebanese TV showed the children being bundled into a car

An Australian woman and three men have been charged with kidnap over a botched attempt to remove her children from Lebanon.

Sally Faulkner, child recovery agent Adam Whittington and his two colleagues tried to take the children from her estranged husband's care in April.

The operation was filmed by a crew from Channel Nine's 60 Minutes show.

All were arrested after the children were snatched from a Beirut street, but the journalists were later released.

Ethical cloud hangs over freed 60 Minutes Australia crew

Judge Rami Abdallah recommended late on Thursday night that the TV crew only be charged with the minor offence of not reporting a crime to authorities - normally punished with a fine.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Lawyers said a settlement was reached so the children's father, Ali Elamine, could raise the children in Lebanon and allow Ms Faulkner to visit them

He also removed criminal gang charges against everyone involved.

As well as British-Australian Mr Whittington, British security specialist Craig Michael and a local fixer were also formally indicted. Another fixer was charged with assault.

The charges have to be approved by a further court, which is expected to happen within days.

Ms Faulkner had been jailed for two weeks but has since returned to Australia, and is unlikely to return to Lebanon to face charges.

Joe Karam, lawyer for the British men, said that he was confident that "whenever it goes to a trial we will reach to the right appropriate decision according to the precedent by the same chamber since 1995 at the appellate court, where they consider a kidnapping of a child by his mother is not a kidnapping".

The 60 Minutes team hired the agents to grab the children from a street in Lebanon, where their mother said they had been moved without her permission by her estranged husband, Ali Elamine.

An inquiry by Channel Nine later concluded that "inexcusable errors" were made in the planning of the documentary and producer Stephen Rice left the organisation. Other staff were given formal warnings.

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