60 Minutes Crew released and leaves Lebanon

Edited by Nelly Tawil

After being held for two weeks in a Beirut prison on charges of child kidnapping, 60 Minute reporter, Tara Brown and the rest of her TV crew are released on bail and left Lebanon.

All involved were facing charges of kidnapping and being members of a criminal gang, which can attract maximum sentences of up to three and ten years respectively.

The original hearing on Monday was a tense day of closed-door negotiations over the fate of the journalist and her crew; the hearing was postponed until Wednesday, which ended with the group being released on bail.

“I had the chance to say ‘hi’ to John,” Tara said of her husband in an interview. “I was ordered to call home straight away. Not the kids yet and I can’t wait to speak to them. It’s great to talk to home, it’s great to be going home.”

Brown had been detained in Beirut along with producer Stephen rice, cameraman Ben Williamson and sound recordist David Ballment since the group was arrested along with Brisbane mum Sally Faulkner on April 7 over a failed child recovery operation.

The team snatched Ms Faulkner’s two children, Lahela, 5, and Noah, 3, from a Beirut Street as they were walking with their Lebanese grandmother.

They have been in jail ever since. Ms Faulkner has been fighting to get access to her children for nine months, her lawyer Ghassan Moughabghab said, after Mr Elamine took them on a three-week holiday to Lebanon and did not return them as agreed.

Ms Faulkner’s estranged husband, Ali Elamine, was on the defensive when he arrived at the Baabda Palace of Justice on Monday, indicating he was not prepared to drop charges against his wife.

To do so, he said, would lead to the release of the Nine Network news team who filmed the “child recovery” operation and those who carried it out.

“The way they are trying to push for this is that if (Australian woman) Sally (Faulkner) goes out on bail, they all get out,” the 32-year-old said on Monday as he prepared to meet Judge Abdullah who has been investigating charges against Faulkner and the 60 Minutes team of being members of a criminal gang and kidnapping.

“That is how I am seeing it as an outsider … They are pushing for Sal’s release and everyone else gets a green card.”

The children were returned to their father soon after the incident occurred and Faulkner, who was also released on bail on Wednesday local time, is expected to remain in Lebanon for another day after release in order to see her children.

“I’m just so glad to be out of there,” Faulkner commented soon after her release from detention.

“They treated us well, we can’t complain about that.”

Judge Rami Abdullah recently confirmed Faulkner’s estranged husband Ali Elamine agreed to bring the children to his chambers on Thursday to see their mother.

Elamine agreed to drop personal charges against the Australians, allowing them to be released on bail while investigations into the case continue.

“They are free to leave Lebanon,” Judge Abdullah said.

The crew departed the country 4:30am Australia time on Thursday.