Having your children kidnapped is every parent’s worst fear. Sally Faulkner, of Brisbane, Australia, knows that all too well from both sides. First, her ex-husband, Ali Elamine, took their two children, Lahela and Noah, to his native Lebanon and then refused to return them to Australia. Now, she’s been arrested, along with crew members of Australia’s Nine Network’s 60 Minutes program for attempting to kidnap them back.
On May 27, 2015, Ali Elamine took the children on a vacation to Lebanon so they could spend time with their paternal relatives. At the time, Lahela was 4-years-old and Noah was 2-years-old.
Once there, according to the Daily Mail he announced that, “By the way, plans have changed – the kids aren’t coming back.”
Ms. Faulkner attempted to use legal means to regain custody, repeatedly asking Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to intervene in recovering the children. Both 6-year-old Lahela and 4-year-old Noah were born in Australia, making them Australian citizens. Ms. Faulkner started a petition on Change.org, where she asked for popular support to encourage the government to assist her in getting her children safely home to Australia.
“Absurdly, the government say ‘parental child abduction’ isn’t technically criminalised in Australia so aren’t bothering to help me find them. I’ve been pleading for months for Julie Bishop to pick up a phone to the government in Lebanon, but all I’ve heard is silence. I can’t bear this – I desperately need the department of foreign affairs to check the status of my children. They’re Australian citizens, endangered in a war zone. My kids are in danger and the government won’t help. It’s a hell I can’t describe. This is about more than access to my own kids – I am worried about their welfare.”
According to CNN, nine people were arrested Wednesday, April 6. Those arrested include correspondent Tara Brown, producer Stephen Rice, cameraman Ben Williamson, and sound recordist David Ballment of Network Nine’s 60 Minutes show, and the children’s mother, Sally Faulkner. The Britons arrested are believed to be employees of Child Abduction Recovery International, a British-based firm that rescues children kidnapped by non-custodial parents.
“Lebanese police confirmed that two British nationals, two Lebanese and five Australians, including the children’s mother, had been arrested in connection to the kidnapping, which allegedly occurred in Beirut on Wednesday.”
The children have been returned to the custody of their father, Ali Elamine, whose name is also spelled Ali el-Amien, Ali al Amin, and Ali El Amin.
A Network Nine spokeswoman said Tara Brown and her crew were “journalists covering a story — that’s all.” Other sources allege that Network Nine may have helped pay for the botched kidnapping/rescue attempt. ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) reports that “Lebanese authorities have claimed they have uncorroborated evidence Nine paid for the failed child abduction. Authorities said they had a signed statement from a member of the “recovery team” who said Nine paid $115,000 for the operation.”
In any divorce, there is a great deal of he said/she said. In an international case with disputed child custody, it’s even worse. The Guardian reported the discrepancies between what Mr. Elamine and Ms. Faulkner allege. Differences between his version of what happened and hers include whether or not the children moving to Lebanon was planned as a permanent move or merely a three-week holiday, how much contact had been permitted between parents and children, and even whether the couple is actually divorced or merely estranged.
This video from ABC shows the children being seized from their grandmother, Ibtissam Berri. Mr. Elamine is furious that his mother and children were endangered in what he considers a kidnapping attempt and others consider a rescue attempt.
Sally Faulkner and the 60 Minutes crew are currently in a Beirut jail. They will face a Lebanese court on charges of attempted kidnapping — kidnapping of children Ms. Faulkner had kidnapped from her.
[Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images]