News National Mum urged to reach custody deal with ex
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Mum urged to reach custody deal with ex

Sally Faulkner with Lahela and Noah.
Sally Faulkner with Lahela and Noah. Photo: Facebook
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The lawyer for an Australian mother at the centre of an alleged abduction case in Lebanon says a judge has urged her and her estranged husband to reach an agreement over the custody of their children.

Brisbane woman Sally Faulkner and four members of a Nine Networks’ 60 Minutes crew were among a group of people arrested after an attempt to take Ms Faulkner’s two children off the streets of the capital, Beirut.

Ms Faulkner was questioned by the judge in the presence of her estranged husband, Ali el-Amien, for a second time on Wednesday.

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Her lawyer said the judge was pressuring the parents of the children to reach a custody agreement that could see her released soon.

The ABC has been told the judge does not view the recovery as a kidnapping, but rather as a mother trying to reunite with her children.

It could also be good news for the 60 Minutes crew — reporter Tara Brown, producer Stephen Rice, cameraman Ben Williamson and sound recordist David Ballment — and the so-called recovery team who were detained with her last week.

Facebook/60 Minutes
The 60 Minutes crew detained in Lebanon: (from left) cameraman Ben Williamson, producer Stephen Rice, reporter Tara Brown and sound recordist David Ballment. Photo: Facebook/60 Minutes

But it may present Ms Faulkner with a dilemma, to accept that her children will remain living in Lebanon in order to help resolve the matter.

Her lawyer said Mr el-Amien is reluctant to make an agreement.

Mr el-Amien had previously said he did not want to see her prosecuted.

Ms Faulkner and the 60 Minutes team were first questioned by a Lebanese investigating judge, who could downgrade the child abduction charges preferred by a prosecutor, on Tuesday.

Ms Brown says the group has been treated well while in custody.

“Quite genuinely we are being treated well by the standards here, it’s fine, it’s not crowded,” she told News Corp Australia.

She said she and her colleagues were speaking with a local lawyer and had been visited by friends.

‘We must abide by the law of the country’

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said Lebanese authorities are treating the arrest of Ms Faulkner and the Nine Network television crew “very seriously”.

Australia’s ambassador to Lebanon Glenn Miles met Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil on Wednesday.

Mr Bassil said a high-level committee was being established, but Lebanese law must still take its course.

Ms Bishop said the group had not been formally charged, but charges were being recommended by Lebanese authorities.

It underscores that we must abide by the laws of the country in which we are visiting, just as it would apply in Australia,” she said.

“If people are in this country, they must abide by the laws of this country. But at this stage I don’t want to go into any detail, I think it would be counter-productive.”

It is understood the charges being brought by the prosecution include: hiding information, forming an association with two or more people to commit crime against a person, kidnapping or holding a minor, and physical assault.

Ms Bishop said it was unclear how long the Australians would be detained in Lebanon.

“Lebanese law is different from Australian law, it’s based on the French system, so there is this investigative stage. We don’t have a direct equivalent in Australian law,” she said.

– ABC

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