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Australian mother and TV crew released in Lebanon kidnap case

Sally Faulkner was set free from prison after agreeing to give up her custody rights in Lebanon. Prominent TV journalist Tara Brown was also released after Faulkner's estranged husband agreed to drop charges.

An Australian mother and television crew were freed from detention in Beirut on Wednesday following

a failed attempt to take her children from their Lebanese father

. The news of their release came after the children's father, Ali al-Amin, announced he had dropped the attempted kidnapping charges he had levied against his ex-wife and the camera crew.

The four-person crew, which included prominent TV journalist Tara Brown (above left) of the program 60 Minutes, had been hoping to capture on film mother Sally Faulkner (above right) reclaiming her children, aged 3 and 5, as they walked to school with their paternal grandmother.

Two Britons and two Lebanese nationals who were allegedly planning to help smuggle the children out of the country via boat remain in prison.

Faulkner had previously said that al-Amin took the children to Lebanon without her permission. Their father has however maintained that she was well aware of the move and that he completed all the proper steps with the Australian authorities.

As part of a deal struck with the judge for her release, Faulkner had to surrender any custody claims to the children in Lebanon, her lawyer said. For his part, al-Amin said he still planned to raise the children in Lebanon and would allow their mother to visit. He added that he would only take them to Australia for visits when the situation had become calmer.

"When everything cools down and we come to our senses in regards to all this, then yes," said the father. "There's still a bit of tension but at the end of the day, we have to come to some sort of balanced relation between her and I."

After being escorted away by vans belonging to the Australian embassy, Tara Brown and the TV crew were expected to depart Lebanon promptly. Faulkner is set to meet al-Amin and the children in the embassy on Thursday before leaving for Australia.

Investigative Judge Rami Abdullah warned that the ordeal was not over, however, and that if the public charges were not dropped, the group would be expected to return to Beirut to stand trial.

"There is a crime that happened, and everyone has a role in the affair," said Abdullah.

es/ (AP, Reuters)

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