A state prosecutor in Lebanon has extended the detention of an Australian woman and eight others, including a TV crew. Authorities are also expected to file kidnapping charges against the group.
Sally Faulkner, four other Australians, two Britons and two Lebanese citizens were arrested last Thursday in Beirut following a failed attempt to grab Faulkner's two children. The Australian mother has accused her Lebanese ex-husband, Ali Al-Amin, of moving the children back to his home country without her permission in 2015.
The botched kidnapping attempt came on Wednesday morning as Al-Amin's mother, Ibtisam Berri, was walking the pair's five-year-old daughter and three-year-old son to school. Berri (pictured above with a photograph of her granddaughter) said she and a domestic worker were walking with the children when two men jumped out of a car and abducted the children, all while the scene was being filmed by a cameraman.
Faulkner had been joined by a television crew for the news program 60 minutes, and prominent journalist Tara Brown is among her fellow detainees.
An investigative court in Beirut will hear the suspects' testimony starting on Tuesday, a judicial official told the press. They will also be given access to translators and lawyers, the official added. Under condition of anonymity, he said that the court would explore whether Faulkner had a right to custody under Australian law, and that fact would be taken into consideration.
According to the Beirut police, at least one of the British citizens who was arrested is being held on suspicion of planning to take the children out of Lebanon in secret on his boat, which is currently docked at a private hotel in the capital.
Authorities returned the children to Al-Amin after the attempt to seize them. He has said he will not personally press charges against Faulkner, telling a local TV station that "she is the mother of my children ...if I were her I would have done the same." In a later interview with broadcaster Al Jadeed, Al-Amin elaborated his side of the story, saying both Faulkner and the relevant Australian authorities knew he was leaving the country with the children, and denied abducting them.
es/rc (AP, Reuters)