Al-Jazeera journalist freed in Egypt
CAIRO (AP) – A reporter for Al-Jazeera English was released from an Egyptian prison and deported Sunday after more than a year behind bars, but his two Egyptian colleagues remained jailed in a case widely condemned as a sham by human-rights groups.
Australian Peter Greste was whisked away on a flight to Cyprus. His release came as a welcome surprise to fellow reporters and activists who spent months pressing for his freedom.
But rights groups and Greste’s Qatar-based broadcaster called on Egypt to release the other two defendants in the case, which has hindered the country’s international standing as it struggles to recover from the political unrest and economic collapse caused by the 2011 uprising.
Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohammed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohammed were arrested in December 2013 over their coverage of the violent crackdown on Islamist protests following the military overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi.
Egyptian authorities accused them of providing a platform for Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, now declared a terrorist organisation. But authorities provided no concrete evidence. The journalists and their supporters insist they were doing their jobs during a time of violent upheaval.
The three were widely seen as having been caught up in a regional power struggle between Egypt and Qatar, which funds Al-Jazeera and had been a strong backer of Morsi. Greste’s release follows a thawing of ties between Cairo and Doha.
“Hard to believe but YES @PeterGreste is a free man,” his brother Andrew wrote on Twitter.
An Egyptian prison official and the nation’s official news agency said Greste was released following a presidential “approval”.
The official and an Interior Ministry statement said he was released under a new deportation law passed last year. The law appeared to have been tailored to the Al-Jazeera case.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media. There was no word on the fate of the other two defendants.
Acting Al-Jazeera Director General Mostefa Souag said the Qatar-based network “will not rest until Baher and Mohamed also regain their freedom”.