BEIRUT – An Australian mother and TV crew caught up in a high-profile child custody battle and detained in Beirut amid a botched attempt to take the woman's two children from their Lebanese father are to be released on bail, a judge ordered Wednesday.
Ali al-Amin, the father of the two children, said he dropped attempted kidnapping charges against his estranged Australian wife Sally Faulkner and the Channel 9 TV crew, because he "didn't want the kids to think I was keeping their mother in jail."
Faulkner and the TV crew, led by prominent Australian TV journalist Tara Brown, are implicated in the operation to seize the two children from Al-Amin two weeks ago. Two Britons and two Lebanese have also been charged. All nine suspects in the case have been detained and jailed in Lebanon.
Al-Amin said he would keep the two children, aged 5 and 3, and raise them in Lebanon, as part of a deal he struck with Faulkner.
Investigative Judge Rami Abdullah said the state still has to review whether to drop public charges against the nine suspects, but that Faulkner and the camera crew would be free to leave Lebanon once they post bail.
"There is a crime that happened, and everyone has a role in the affair," said Abdullah.
The judge also said Faulkner and the TV crew will be expected to return to Lebanon to stand trial if the public charges are not dropped. He said his office will review the case. Last week, he said the nine suspects face up to 15 years in prison if tried and convicted of the charges.
The suspects also face charges filed by al-Amin's mother, who was struck and knocked to the ground during the incident two weeks ago. Al-Amin said she suffered a head injury but was recovering.
Faulkner has a three-month old child with another father, in Australia.