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Detained TV crew, mother to give testimony

Associated Press Associated Press 11/04/2016

A Lebanese state prosecutor has extended the detention of Australian Sally Faulkner, the Nine Network 60 Minutes TV crew and others on suspicion of attempted kidnapping after assailants tried to snatch Faulkner's children from their father's care.

Sally Faulkner, along with four Australians, two Britons, and two Lebanese, was taken into police custody last Thursday after a botched attempt was made to seize Faulkner's five-year-old daughter and three-year-old son as they headed for school with their paternal grandmother on Wednesday morning.

Faulkner has accused her Lebanese ex-husband, Ali el-Amien, of moving the children from Australia to Lebanon without her permission in 2015.

The detainees include star TV presenter Tara Brown and her crew from Channel Nine TV.

A reporter from the station said in an interview broadcast on Thursday that the crew was there to cover the story for 60 Minutes.

Lebanon's state news agency reported that state prosecutor Claude Karam would move forward with his investigation after receiving the police report on Monday.

An investigative court will take testimonies from the suspects beginning on Tuesday.

They will be allowed translators and lawyers at their hearings, a judicial official said.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to comment publicly, said the judiciary would explore whether Faulkner has the right to custody of the children under Australian law, which could serve as a mitigating factor in the investigation.

The children's grandmother, Ibtisam Berri, said she and a domestic worker were taking the children to school last Wednesday when two men jumped out of a parked car and snatched the children.

She said a cameraman was filming the scene from the car.

At least one of the Britons is being held on suspicion that he planned to smuggle the children out of Lebanon on his boat, docked at a private Beirut hotel, police officials said.

The authorities returned the children to el-Amien.

He told Al Jadeed TV that Faulkner and Australian security agencies knew he was leaving Australia with the children and denied kidnapping them from their mother.

Lebanon is not party to the Hague Convention, which provides recourse to parents who claim their children have been abducted internationally.

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