BEIRUT (Reuters) - An Australian woman and television crew charged with kidnapping her children from their father in Beirut were set to be released on Wednesday, a judge said, after an out-of-court settlement was reached between the sides.
The mother, Sally Faulkner, and the four-member Australian “60 minutes” television crew were charged on April 12 with involvement in kidnapping after the woman’s two children were snatched off the street following a custody dispute with their Lebanese father.
The judge, Rami Abdallah, said father Ali Zeid al-Amin had dropped charges against them. Bail was paid and they were free to leave the country, he and the lawyer representing them said. It was unclear when Faulkner and the crew would actually be released.
Members of the TV crew were earlier marched handcuffed to and from a room in a courthouse outside Beirut while their lawyers tried to negotiate their release.
“We reached a point where it is enough for her (Faulkner) being detained, it is wrong for the children and for her as a mother,” Amin said, explaining his decision to drop charges.
At the time of the kidnapping incident, Lebanese authorities said they had prevented the woman and the crew from taking Amin and Faulkner’s two children back to Australia.
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.
Australia’s Channel Nine television network has said its crew was not connected to the people who grabbed the children, Australian media reported.
The mother was subsequently arrested and the children were returned to their father.
Lebanon, unlike Australia, is not a signatory to 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.
Reporting by John Davison in Beirut and James Regan in Sydney; Editing by Dominic Evans