By Middle East Correspondent Matt Brown in Beirut
A judge has been asked by Lebanese prosecutors to investigate child abduction charges against Australian mother Sally Faulkner and a Channel Nine crew.
The four-member crew — including reporter Tara Brown — and a four-man recovery team were detained after the botched operation to get Ms Faulkner’s two children away from their Lebanese father and back to Australia.
The prosecutors referred to the crime of deprivation of liberty, or abduction, which is punishable by a minimum three years in jail.
They have sent the file to an investigating judge, due to appointed later today, who could decide to release the accused on bail or hold them while he conducts further enquiries.
Lebanese authorities also claim to be in possession of footage of an alleged child abduction, which shows the face of a Channel Nine cameraman.
The ABC has not seen the footage and authorities could not say if his image was recorded during the operation or beforehand — but it does complicate the case because authorities already suspect Channel Nine paid for the operation.
The ABC cannot confirm that and Channel Nine has not commented directly on it.
Channel Nine maintained its crew was not connected to the recovery team that grabbed the children.
Under religiously inspired laws, Ms Faulkner’s rights as a mother are limited, but she may have a presumed right of custody over at least one of her two children depending on their ages, which could undermine the kidnapping case.
However, Lebanese authorities have taken a dim view of the use of the child recovery agency.
A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said on Saturday that officials at the Australian embassy in Beirut were assisting Ms Faulkner and the 60 Minutes crew.
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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