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60 Minutes crew, Sally Faulkner released on bail in Lebanon after deal reached in child abduction case

ABC News logo ABC News 20/04/2016
Australian mother Sally Faulkner © AAP Image/Facebook Australian mother Sally Faulkner

A Lebanese judge has released Australian mother Sally Faulkner and a Channel Nine crew on bail after Ms Faulkner's estranged husband dropped all charges against them. 

The five Australians are set to be released into the custody of the Australian Embassy before reporter Tara Brown and the crew's other three members fly home.

The 60 Minutes team has been in jail since being accused of involvement in an operation to snatch Ms Faulkner's children off a street in Beirut nearly two weeks ago.

Ms Faulkner's estranged husband, Ali el-Amien, struck a deal that saw the charges abandoned, but is still pursuing the child recovery crew who snatched his young son and daughter from their grandmother.

The ABC's Middle East correspondent Matt Brown said Ms Faulkner and the Nine crew may be headed home as early as Wednesday night Beirut time.

Australian TV journalist Tara Brown, left, and Sally Faulkner, right, the mother of the two Australian children, sit in a minivan after they released from a Lebanese jail with the three members of Channel 9 Australian TV crew, in Baabda east of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday April 20, 2016. © Hussein Malla/AP Images Australian TV journalist Tara Brown, left, and Sally Faulkner, right, the mother of the two Australian children, sit in a minivan after they released from a Lebanese jail with the three members of Channel 9 Australian TV crew, in Baabda east of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday April 20, 2016.

"We are pleased to hear news of the release of Ms Faulkner and the four 60 Minutes crew members on bail," a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said.

"It is premature to comment on how soon the released Australians will be able to depart Lebanon, or any conditions attached to their release."

Judge Rami Abdullah said the crew and Ms Faulkner were still facing public prosecution charges of kidnapping and being members of a criminal gang and may be required to return to Lebanon if the state decides to go ahead with the prosecution.

However, he said: "They are free to leave Lebanon."

Outside court, Ms Faulkner's Lebanese lawyer, Ghassan Moghabghab, said the Brisbane woman was feeling "happy and sad".

"Sad because of her story and sad because she will — her children will stay with their father ... taking into consideration the Lebanese law, he is in his rights.

"And happy that she was released, obviously."

Mr el-Amien, also speaking after Wednesday's court appearance, said: "This is the most stressful thing I've ever experienced in my life. I hope no-one ever experiences it."

Asked what was next for the couple's children, he said they would "carry on with their regular lives" and "we'll figure out something with Sally".

He added: "She can come to Lebanon and if she cannot come ... they will decide together which country she will visit."

"I am glad it's over. She is their mother and I don't want them growing up and thinking 'Daddy had the option of letting Mummy off easily and he didn't," he said.

Child Abduction Recovery International's Adam Whittington, a joint British-Australian national, and two Lebanese local employees who were hired as freelancers for the 60 Minutes job, as well a British national who came in from Cyprus, are still facing charges.

They will appear before the judge again on Thursday.

Mr Moghabghab said he was not aware of any compensation as part of the agreement.

The lawyer acting for the Nine Network, Kamal Aboudaher, said on Monday the broadcaster had not offered any financial compensation to Mr el-Amien.

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