BEIRUT/SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Wednesday his government was providing support to an Australian mother and TV crew charged in Beirut with kidnapping-related offenses, but said he respected the Lebanese judicial system.
The mother and a four-member Australian “60 Minutes” television crew were charged on Tuesday with involvement in kidnapping after the woman’s two children were snatched off the street following a custody dispute with their Lebanese father.
The group have been detained in Beirut for a week, judicial sources said, after authorities scuppered their attempt to take the woman’s two children back to Australia.
Australia’s Channel Nine television network said its crew was not connected to the people who grabbed the children, Australian media reported.
Turnbull said that Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has been speaking with her Lebanese counterpart about the issue.
“They’re receiving all the full consular support from our diplomats and consular officials in Beirut,” Turnbull told reporters in Perth. “But of course we respect the Lebanese legal system and their right to investigate and take proceedings if they feel offences have been committed.”
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 and bundling them into a car.
The mother 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.
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”.
Reporting By Angus McDowall in BEIRUT and Jane Wardell in SYDNEY; Editing by Michael Perry