Don’t judge 60 Minutes crew: families

Anxious families of the 60 Minutes crew detained in Lebanon over a botched child recovery operation are asking people to withhold judgment and focus on bringing them home.

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Speaking for the first time since journalist Tara Brown and her crew, Stephen Rice, Benjamin Williamson and David Ballment, were arrested on April 7, they cautioned the facts were still emerging.

“People forget that Tara, Stephen, Ben and Tangles were over there doing a job; covering a story,” they said in a joint statement on Sunday.

“The analysis can come later. Right now, the priority is getting them all home.”

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The TV crew and Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner are facing kidnapping charges after they were arrested following an alleged botched attempt to retrieve Ms Faulkner’s two children from their father, Ali Elamine, in Beirut.

Lawyers negotiating on behalf of Ms Faulkner and her estranged Lebanese-American husband have failed to reach agreement on custody of Lahela, five, and Noah, three, and the case will return to a Lebanese court on Monday.

“We haven’t spoken to our partners since before they were arrested,” Cara Williamson, Denise Rice, John McAvoy and Laura Battistel said in their statement.

“Very few of the facts are clear at this stage. If we don’t have all the facts, how can anyone else?”

They described events as a “living nightmare”.

“Some of us haven’t even told our children what’s happening yet,” they said.

“It’s not an easy conversation to have with a five- or seven-year-old who ask as they go to sleep each night when mummy or daddy is coming home.”

They said their natural instinct had been to fly to Beirut to support the crew, but they had been advised by people on the ground to stay put.

“From what we know, they are in good health, keeping their spirits up and are being well looked after by the Lebanese authorities.

“That is all that is getting us through at the moment.”