The Australian mother detained alongside a 60 Minutes TV crew in Lebanon after a failed child snatch attempt has a three-month old baby in Brisbane, it has been discovered.
Sally Faulkner left the baby she had earlier this year with her new husband, Brendan Pierce, so she could travel to Lebanon to recover her two children from a previous marriage.
She has claimed her children, Lahela, 6, and Noah, 4, were being kept illegally in Lebanon by her former husband, Ali el-Amine.
Mr el-Amine denies the claims and said Ms Faulkner had previously agreed to the children going to Lebanon. Lebanese media claim Ms Faulkner began protesting the arrangement when her maintenance payments were halted.
Sally Faulkner with her children Lahela and Noah. (Image via Facebook.)
An announcement by Foreign Affairs Minister, Julie Bishop, concerning the case revealed her department were trying to determine the “alleged involvement” of the TV crew.
"We are providing as much support as we can, meeting with officials within the Lebanese government and doing what we can to ascertain what is proposed, in relation to the crew and the alleged involvement of the crew in this case," Ms Bishop said on Saturday.
Bishop also highlighted the delicate nature of the situation, "There is a compassionate element to this case, because of course it involves children."
Based upon Lebanese law, Fathers are given preference to the care of the children at a certain age. (Image via Facebook.)
The botched child recovery attempt saw the children snatched from their paternal grandmother at a Beirut bus stop. They managed to be returned to their mother, but then all parties involved were arrested within 24 hours of the operation.
60 Minutes accompanied Ms Faulkner to Lebanon to document the attempted recovery using a controversial child recovery agency. Four men who represent the agency and were involved in the recovery attempt have also been detained.
Lebanese authorities claim they now have a signed statement from a member of the ‘recovery team’ who says Channel Nine paid $115, 000 for the operation.
Neither 60 minutes nor Channel Nine are yet to comment, but it has been reported that the crew have denied the claims against them, despite there being ‘uncorroborated’ evidence against the crew. The 60 Minutes team remain in custody.
It is being claimed by Lebanese media this CCTV footage captures the moment the children were taken from their Grandmother. Post continues after video.
Lebanese officials have labelled the operation as a mix of ‘arrogance’ and ‘stupidity’.
The area in South Beirut where the two children were grabbed was en route to their school.
The area is heavily patrolled and monitored by two powerful connected political and militia organisations in Hezbollah and Amal. Being in the midst of peak hour traffic made the getaway difficult.
Their father, Mr el-Amien, is politically connected with the speaker of Lebanon’s parliament, Nabih Berri, who his Mother's cousin. Berri is also the head of the Amal movement which has access to major security resources.
Based upon Lebanese law, heavily influenced by religion, Fathers are given preference to the care of the children at a certain age.
Mr el-Amien told ABC that he was aware of Faulkner's impending arrival, as he still had access to her email account on his child’s iPad. Mr el-Amein claims her warned Ms Faulkner not to attempt the recovery, however did not inform her of the inside knowledge he had access to.
Until the recovery attempt, it had been almost a year since Ms Faulkner has seen her children. During this time Faulkner has launched several online campaigns and petitions to attract federal attention.
A change.org petition amassed 33,000 signatures in total.
Mr el-Amein claims her warned Ms Faulkner not to attempt the recovery. (Image via Facebook.)
Meanwhile, prominent figures within the NSW Lebanese community are lobbying for the release of Faulkner and the television crew. This movement has been headed by Sydney doctor and Muslim leader Jamal Rifi.
Dr Rifi is brother to Ashraf Rifi, the Lebanese Minister for Justice. He says he has taken the initiative to call contacts within the justice authorities.
Dr Rifi claims to being assuring the humane treatment of the Australian’s detained. "My only involvement is to make sure the Australian people are being looked after in a humane way," he said.
Dr Rifi says many people in Lebanon had at first interpreted the abduction as a violation of their sovereignty."I believe that the Lebanese public have sympathy towards the mother but they are angry towards the methods used."
The police are expected to pass the investigatory brief onto the prosecutor next week.