The 60 Minutes debacle is not over.
While 60 Minutes reporter Tara Brown and her crew who were involved in “recovering” two children in Lebanon will escape with a token fine, the children’s Australian mother Sally Faulkner and the “abductors” face up to seven years in prison.
Both Sally Faulkner and former soldier Adam Whittington have been charged with kidnapping over the botched attempt to bring her children to Australia, Whittington’s lawyer says.
Whittington’s lawyer confirmed criminal conspiracy charges against the pair had also been dropped in a Lebanese court on Thursday afternoon (local time), reports ABC.
Faulkner, 60 Minutes crew members, along with Whittington and his associates were accused of trying to forcibly take Ms Faulkner’s children — who were living in Beirut with her estranged ex-partner Ali Elamine — and return them to Australia.
Reports say, the 60 Minutes crew is to be charged with knowing about the crime and failing to report it, an offence punished by a fine.
Faulkner and the 60 Minutes crew came back to Australia in April after Channel Nine reached a plea bargain to ensure the release of its staff. Unfortunately, the recovery team was not included in the deal.
Ms Faulkner’s mother Karen said, “It’s very unfair that a woman has to go to these lengths to see and speak to her children and to hold her children, and be charged with kidnapping of her biological children she’s given birth to,” she said.
Ms Faulkner’s lawyer is hopeful the kidnapping charge will be dismissed on appeal while Whittington’s lawyer, Joe Karam, said an appeals court now has to approve or overturn the indictment.
“We are fully confident with the Lebanese criminal justice system that whenever it goes to a trial we will reach to the right appropriate decision, where they consider a kidnapping of a child by his mother is not a kidnapping,” he said.
Journalist Tara Brown and the rest of the crew retained their positions. Ms Brown maintained that she and her crew were “just journalists doing our job”, expressing shock at the actions of the Lebanese authorities.
Channel Nine confirmed in a statement that the charges against its staff had been downgraded. “There will still be a trial on a date to be determined and out of respect for the Lebanese legal process we will not be making any further comment while the matter is still before the court,” the statement read.
The charges will be reviewed by another judicial authority and can be appealed before going before a court.