Brisbane woman Sally Faulkner wants her two children to know mummy’s sorry they won’t be together.
The woman at the centre of the Lebanon child abduction case involving 60 Minutes hopes she will get to see her children in Australia one day, although her estranged husband Ali Elamine will not let that happen any time soon.
Ms Faulkner and a 60 Minutes crew’s release after two weeks in a Beirut prison on child abduction charges has come at a cost: Ms Faulkner gave up custody in a deal reportedly secured by the Nine Network paying a large sum to Mr Elamine.
Reporter Tara Brown and her colleagues arrived back in Sydney on Thursday night, while Ms Faulkner remains in Beirut to see Lahela, 5, and Noah, 3.
“I love them and mummy’s sorry that it all worked out this way. I tried,” Ms Faulkner told Nine while in a van with the 60 Minutes crew after their release.
“I hope I can see them one day again in Australia, I really do.”
She had hoped to see them early on Thursday but, despite Judge Rami Abdullah directing Mr Elamine to bring the children to see her in his chambers, he arrived for the meeting without them.
Ms Faulkner left the meeting accompanied by an Australian Embassy official and said “I don’t know” when asked when she expected to see her children.
Mr Elamine later said he didn’t want to bring the children to the court where there is still a big media presence.
It’s understood Ms Faulkner will see her children privately under the supervision of the embassy official.
Mr Elamine had said on Wednesday his estranged wife can have access to the children in Lebanon and “come and go as she wants”.
But he will not let the children visit their mother in Australia “at the moment”, saying he wanted things to settle down.
“Then maybe a few years down the line, yeah why not?”
Ms Faulkner’s lawyer Ghassan Moughabghab said under the custody agreement that secured her release, she can visit the children in Lebanon or a third country, but not in Australia.
Sources said a substantial figure was paid to Mr Elamine in exchange for him dropping charges against Ms Faulkner and the crew, who still face the prospect of criminal charges.
Mr Elamine maintained he had not received “a dime” but left open the possibility.
“I wouldn’t mind if they would cough up something but I never signed on anything or never communicated anything regarding money or anything like that,” Mr Elamine told 3AW.
“My only concern was to get the custody of the kids.”
Ms Faulkner, who has a three-month-old baby with her current partner, and the 60 Minutes crew – Brown, producer Stephen Rice, cameraman Ben Williamson and sound recordist David Ballment – were relieved to be out of jail.
“I’m just so incredibly relieved to be going home,” Brown said.
Nine will review what went wrong, CEO Hugh Marks said.
“It is important to reiterate that at no stage did anyone from Nine or 60 Minutes intend to act in any way that made them susceptible to charges that they breached the law or to become part of the story that is Sally’s story,” he said in an email to staff obtained by AAP.
“But we did become part of the story and we shouldn’t have.”
Adam Whittington, the dual Australian-British CEO of Child Abduction Recovery International, and his British colleague Craig Michaels remain in jail, as do two Lebanese associates.
His lawyer Joe Karam released a document on Thursday allegedly showing Nine paid the organisation a first instalment of $A69,000 as part of the operation.