Aussie teacher ‘hunted’ in Lebanon reveals ordeal

Written By komlim puldel on Minggu, 26 Oktober 2014 | 20.01

Australian mother Mahassen Issa was charged with adultery and disowned by her family. Source: Channel 7

THE Australian mother and schoolteacher who was allegedly trapped in Lebanon facing adultery charges raised by her own husband has shared her story in an exclusive interview with Sunday Night.

Mahassen Issa, 29, who was charged with adultery in June after she flew to Lebanon to be with her new partner, Mohammed Awick, claims she was unable to leave the country and was "hunted" by authorities after her estranged husband triggered the charges.

"I've been followed, harassed, threatened," Ms Issa tells Seven reporter Steve Pennells in the interview, which took place while she was still on the run from authorities in the foreign country.

Pennells spent several weeks with Ms Issa in Lebanon and said the situation "got worse and worse" while he was there and recalled the pair "being followed at one point."

Mahassen Issa made a spontaneous decision to fly to Lebanon to be with Mohammed Awick. Source: Supplied

Refused contact with her two young children (aged six and nine) back in Australia, she can be heard in the interview saying, "I have to go back to my children ... just put my kids on the phone."

Ms Issa secretly fled Australia and her husband Bassem Abou Lokmeh to be with Mr Awick and within days found herself wearing a white dress and pledging her commitment to him — a mistake she now admits to be the biggest of her life.

Ms Issa "was supposed to be there [in Lebanon] for two weeks," Pennells told "She was blocked from leaving and her home back in Sydney was rented out, all her belongings were taken."

Pennells added that Ms Issa never married Mr Awick, it was simply a commitment ceremony.

Mahassen Issa was only planning to stay in Lebanon for two weeks. Source: Supplied

Pennells added that Ms Issa didn't tell anyone she was flying to Lebanon, instead she told friends she was planning to spend two weeks in Melbourne. "It was a spur of the moment decision — a spontaneous, impulsive decision."

Over the next two months Ms Issa alleges she became a fugitive from Lebanese authorities. An arrest warrant was issued, she was accused of bigamy and adultery, and now faces punishment under strict Islamic law.

"She was scared, there was definitely an arrest warrant and she was definitely blocked from airports," Pennells confirmed.

"My crime here, under sharia law, is adultery," Ms Issa says in the Sunday Night exclusive.

Despite being disowned by her own family, the Sydney-born primary school tutor says her new boyfriend never turned his back on her.

"He [Mr Awick] risked it all, his whole life, for me and I'm the one bringing this trouble onto him. And he took it, and he said it's OK,'' she says.

"He was the one lugging luggage up and down streets, running around at 2 o'clock, 3 o'clock in the morning trying to find us a safe haven."

"He risked it all" — Mahassen Issa with boyfriend Mohammad Awick. Source: Supplied

Ms Issa turned up at Bankstown Local Court earlier this month but it's not yet known how, or when she managed to return to the country. Ms Issa refused to comment when questioned outside the court, having signed a deal with Seven's Sunday Night.

Her October 9 court appearance was reportedly over a withdrawn apprehended violence order against Mr Lokmeh, allegedly relating to threatening phone calls and text messages she claimed to have received from her former husband.

A lawyer for Mr Lokmeh said his client was exonerated regarding the AVO.

Pennells said that Ms Issa has been reunited with her two children upon returning to Sydney but said "the battle isn't over yet."

Bachelor of education Mahassen Issa with husband Bassem, mum Nala and sister Salma at her graduation ceremony in Rydalmere, 2007. Source: DailyTelegraph

When asked about her fears that her new partner would leave her, she said: "I was scared that he would. I was honestly scared that he would, because anyone would run. I would.

"If I was in a predicament like that and I was going to go to jail, I'd run. But he didn't. And I never left him and he didn't leave me."

An emotional Mahassen and Mohammed during their interview with Sunday Night. Source: Channel 7

Australian divorce proceedings require separation of at least a year. Ms Issa claims she separated from her husband in September last year but continued to live in the same house, while he claims they were together until April this year.

Sunday Night, hosted by Chris Bath, airs Sundays at 8pm on Seven.

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