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Australian TV Crew Charged After Botched Child Abduction in Lebanon

BEIRUT — An Australian mother and TV crew were charged Tuesday over their involvement in the attempted abduction of two children in Lebanon's capital.

The mother and a four-member crew for Australia's 60 Minutes program have been detained in Beirut since last Wednesday, judicial sources said, after authorities thwarted an attempt to take the woman's two children back to Australia.

Image: Ibtissam Berri
Ibtissam Berri was walking with her grandchildren when the attempted abduction occurred. Her granddaughter Lahela can be seen pictured at her home in the southern suburbs of Beirut. Bilal Hussein / AP

CCTV footage broadcast on Lebanese television appeared to show several people grabbing the children, who the father said were aged five and three, from their grandmother Ibtissam Berri and bundling them into a car.

Lebanese authorities said they have evidence that the crew's employer, Channel Nine, paid about $88,000 for a "recovery" team to snatch the children, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The mother, Sally Faulkner, was subsequently arrested and the children were returned to their father. The files on the case have been transferred to a judge for further investigation.

Faulkner made a public appeal to the Australian government last year, saying that her ex-husband had kidnapped their children and returned to Lebanon.

Lebanon, unlike Australia, is not a signatory of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which allows for children normally resident in one location to be returned if taken by a relative.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said on Saturday she could not "understate the seriousness with which the Lebanese authorities are viewing the case" and added that Canberra was handling it "very carefully."