Australian Leader Supports Detained Child Kidnappers in LebanonBookmark this
Australian government was providing top-level consular support to an Australian television crew facing charges after being caught up in a mother's bungled child-snatching attempt in Lebanon, Australia's prime minister said on Wednesday.
An Australian mother, a four-member TV crew from Nine Network, two British agents from the Britain-based Child Abduction Recovery International company, known as CARI, and two Lebanese men have been in police custody since two Lebanese-Australian siblings Lahala, 6, and Noah, 4, were snatched from a South Beirut bus stop last week in a bid to smuggle them out of the country.
Prosecutor Claude Karam on Tuesday charged the nine with kidnapping and referred them to an investigative judge who will decide whether they will be referred to court for trial, state-run National News Agency reported.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Wednesday that Australia's foreign minister had raised the case with her Lebanese counterpart and Australia's ambassador in Beirut was personally overseeing consular efforts to support the TV crew.
"We understand that the prosecutor has recommended charges be laid against the '60 Minutes' crew and we'll be working very closely with ... our officials on the ground ... to ensure their welfare is looked after," Turnbull told Perth Radio 6PR.
Turnbull declined to say whether he thought the TV crew was foolish to get involved in a child custody dispute in Lebanon.
"I won't make any comment on the case, but I just make the observation that wherever you are in the world, you have to be very clear about recognizing that you must comply with the local laws," Turnbull said.
"Where children are involved in a foreign jurisdiction such as Lebanon, it is the local courts — not the Australian government and much less private citizens — who make decisions about child custody," he said.
The Australian mother said the children's Lebanese father Ali al-Amin took them from their home in Brisbane city to Beirut on a holiday last year and never returned.
The network said its crew was in Beirut to film and interview the mother after she was reunited with her children.
The network will not say whether it paid CARI to snatch the children after grabbing from their grandmother in the area of Hadath south of Beirut to smuggle them out of Lebanon by boat.