A Lebanese judge has urged Australian woman Sally Faulkner and her estranged husband, Ali Elamine to reach an agreement over the custody of their children, as criminal proceedings continue in Beirut over a bungled bid by Sally and a 60 minutes crew to retrieve the two siblings.
Sally is appearing in the court alongside Nine Network journalist Tara Brown and her 60 Minutes crew, Benjamin Williamson, David Ballment and Stephen Rice, after the group was arrested when they attempted to remove her young children in Beirut last week.
They 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.
It is understood the 60 Minutes team were in Lebanon to report on the recovery of the children. The children, Noah, 4 and Lehela, 6, were returned to their father soon after they were snatched by a child recovery team as they walked with their paternal grandmother in the southern Beirut suburb of Hadath.
Ghassan Moughabghab, Sally’s Lawyer, says if the children’s parents can reach an agreement, it would “help all the accused people”, including the Australian journalists.
“The husband has to drop the charges,” Mr Moughabghab said. “The judge is pushing [for him] to do that.”
He said until last week, Sally had not seen her children for more than a year.
The case before Judge Rami Abdullah, which began on Tuesday, is ongoing in the Baabda Palace of Justice in Beirut.
The case is causing significant concerns to both Australia and Lebanon. Australia’s ambassador to Lebanon, Glenn Miles, met Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil yesterday to discuss the case.
In a statement released after the meeting, Mr Bassil said he had asked for the formation of a joint Lebanese-Australian committee to resolve the custody case.
It was important this case did not affect Australian-Lebanese relations, he said, urging Australians to respect Lebanon’s laws and Lebanese to respect Australia’s laws.
Outside the court, the children’s father, Mr Elamine told Australian Associated Press that the two children were fine and “were being sheltered from it all”.
The court case is expected to continue today.