60 Minutes defamation case: documents reveal escape of ‘child bride’
GOVERNMENT documents detailing how Australian consular officials helped a Sydney teenager escape from Syria where her family were trying to force her to marry have been presented in a defamation case against Nine’s 60 Minutes.
A 2006 case file on Nadia Tabbaa from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade details how they helped the 18-year-old escape under the nose of her family who kept her under strict surveillance by whisking her away when she was meant to be attending a religious class and smuggling her over the border to Jordan.
But her mother Pamela Tabbaa, who with her former husband Mouhammad Tabbaa is suing 60 Minutes over the story of Nadia’s dramatic escape, told the jury the Australian consular staff were tricked into helping the teenager escape when she was free to leave Syria whenever she wanted.
Mr and Mrs Tabbaa are suing Nine over the story which said they conspired to lure 13-year-old Nadia to the Middle East under the pretence of a holiday and then forced her to live in Syria with her paternal grandmother for five years. The Tabbaa’s claim the story has damaged their reputations by bringing them into ridicule and contempt.
In the DFAT documents dated August 9 2006 staff from the Australian Emergency Response Team in the Canadian Embassy in Damascus note that they have been contacted by Nadia Tabbaa who told them she was being prevented from leaving Syria by her father and uncles
“Nadia advised that she was brought to Syria under false pretences on a holiday at 13 and her movements in Syria are monitored,” the report states.
Nadia also reported that “her grandmother is trying to marry her off and her father has confiscated her passport.”