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Dad won’t drop charges in 60 Minutes case

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The father at the centre of a child abduction saga in Lebanon says he is not willing to drop charges against his estranged wife because he believes it would lead to the release of the Nine Network news team who filmed the 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,” 32-year-old Ali al-Amin said as he prepared to meet the judge Rami Abdullah on Monday.

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

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Nine had “dropped the ball by getting involved in family matters” and now “everyone is blaming the other for what happened”, he added.

Journalist Tara Brown and Australian woman Ms Faulkner were escorted handcuffed into the judge’s office for a third session of questioning on Monday, before the case adjourned until Wednesday for further investigation.

Mr al-Amin discounted claims by Ms Faulkner’s lawyer, Ghassan Moughabghab, that negotiations over the custody dispute had broken down, saying they had not started.

“All that’s happened is the judge asked us to talk.”

Sally Faulkner abduction drama
Sally Faulkner thought she was turning to experts to retrieve her children. Photo: Supplied

Lawyer for Network Nine, Kamal Aboudaher, said the TV channel hadn’t offered any financial compensation to Mr al-Amin.

“We didn’t exchange any offer with Ali regarding funds,” he said outside the court.

Negotiations had been progressing between lawyers for Ms Faulkner and Mr al-Amin when “suddenly Mr al-Amin’s lawyer said “we are not in a hurry”.

Ms Faulkner is facing charges of kidnapping her two children and belonging to a criminal gang.

She along with Brown and her crew have been held in a Lebanese jail since their arrest earlier this month.

Ms Faulkner has been fighting to get access to her children for nine months, Mr Moughabghab said, after her estranged husband Mr al-Amin took Lahela, 6 and Noah, 4, on a three-week holiday to Lebanon and did not return them as agreed.

But an attempt to snatch them from a suburban Beirut street by a “child recovery team”, caught on CCTV, was ultimately unsuccessful.

The children were returned to their father and the 60 Minutes team in Lebanon to film the recovery – Brown, Benjamin Williamson, David Ballment and Stephen Rice – were arrested.

Tara Brown and her crew face serious charges in Lebanon. Facebook/60 Minutes
Tara Brown and her crew face serious charges in Lebanon. Photo: Facebook/60 Minutes

The two others are believed to be members of the child recovery agency hired for the operation – Britons Craig Michael and Adam Whittington.

Whittington claims he has receipts showing that Nine made online payments totalling $115,000 to him for the planning of the operation and recovery of the children.

“It was direct from Channel Nine, it was from their accounts department and they paid it in two instalments,” he told The Australian.

Nine has refused to comment.

All involved are facing charges of kidnapping and being members of a criminal gang, which can attract maximum sentences of up to three years and 10 years respectively.


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