Australian journalist Peter Greste arrived home in Brisbane early this morning following his release by the Egyptian government after 401 days behind bars in Cairo’s Tora jail.
Greste was greeted by his family and a phalanx of international reporters at the airport. “I can’t tell you how ecstatic I am to be here,” he said.
The Al-Jazeera journalist flew to Nicosia after his release, accompanied by his brother Michael, however his Al-Jazeera co-workers, Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy, remain in jail.
The correspondent was deported from Egypt after he was set free by a decree of Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The scene was set for his deportation after an appeal to Egypt’s Court of Cassation resulted in the sentences of Greste and his two co-workers being overturned and a retrial ordered.
With no date set for the retrial, deportation was made possible at the president’s discretion under new laws covering foreign prisoners.
Greste and his colleagues were arrested in Cairo, jailed and later convicted on charges of aiding the banned Muslim Brotherhood and spreading false news – charges the three journalists declared to be false. Greste was sentenced to seven years’ jail in June.
The Newspaper Works s welcomed Greste’s release. The industry body’s chief executive Mark Hollands said: “We are pleased and relieved for both Peter and his family that he has been released from his unjust imprisonment, however, we, like Al Jazeera, urge the Egyptian Government to now release Peter’s colleagues.
“All actions by any government designed to restrict press freedom and the public’s right to know should and must be fought.
“Around the world, journalists are subjected to threats of violence, jail sentences and are even killed for the pursuit of truth,. The jailing of Mr Greste and his colleagues demonstrates the dangers and sacrifices journalists are called upon to make.”
Al-Jazeera said in a statement that the network’s campaign to free its journalists in Egypt would not end until all three had been released.
Mostefa Souag, acting Director General of the Al Jazeera Media Network, said: “We’re pleased for Peter and his family that they are to be reunited. It has been an incredible and unjustifiable ordeal for them, and they have coped with incredible dignity.
“Peter’s integrity is not just intact, but has been further enhanced by the fortitude and sacrifice he has shown for his profession of informing the public.
“We will not rest until Baher and Mohamed also regain their freedom. The Egyptian authorities have it in their power to finish this properly today, and that is exactly what they must do.”
Greste’s brother Andrew, father Juris and mother Lois Greste addressed the media in Brisbane on Monday.
His mother, Lois, said it was a day she thought would never come. He is “safe, healthy and very, very happy to be on his way home,” the family said in a statement.
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