Australian journalist Peter Greste, the Al Jazeera English reporter jailed in Egypt on charges of spreading false news, has been released from prison and deported out of the country, according to state media sources.
Greste, a former BBC reporter and Peabody Award winner, along with fellow Al-Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, spent more than a year in jail following their arrest in December 2013 on what many believe were politically motivated, trumped-up charges of aiding terrorist actions and being associates of the Muslim Brotherhood. Greste had been in Egypt only a fortnight when he was arrested along with his two Al-Jazeera English colleagues, as well as several students.
News reports indicated Mohamed Fahmy would also soon be deported to Canada after his dual Egyptian nationality was dropped. The duo are making use of a new presidential decree enacted in November that allows foreign detainees to be tried in their own countries rather than in Egypt. It is widely believed that the new measure was introduced partly as a consequence of the case of the three journalists.
There was no word yet on the fate of Baher Mohamed. Unlike his peers, Mohamed only has Egyptian nationality.
“Hard to believe but yes, Peter is a free man. His butt has left Egyptian airspace yippeeee!!! I think I’ll go and get drunk,” tweeted Greste’s brother Andrew on hearing the news.
The plight of the journalists has become something of a bellwether for the curtailing of press freedoms in Egypt following the consolidation of power by democratically elected President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.
“We’re pleased for Peter and his family that they are to be reunited,” said Mostefa Souag, acting Director General of Al Jazeera Media Network in a statement. “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.”