Australian journalist Peter Greste has been deported from Egypt after 400 days behind bars, and is believed to be on his way home to Australia. There were reports Greste was in good health when he boarded an initial flight from Egypt to Larnaca in Cyprus overnight, accompanied by one of his brothers.
Greste’s family confirmed his release from jail in a statement posted on social media. His brother Andrew Greste said the family was ecstatic and called for the world to respect his brother’s privacy and to give him time to appreciate his freedom.
The family will hold a press conference in Brisbane later this morning ::::
Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued the order for Greste to be released after he was imprisoned on charges that included aiding a terrorist group. Egypt decided to deport Greste to his home country, a senior interior ministry official told news agency AFP.
“There is a presidential decision to deport Peter Greste to Australia,” the official said.
Greste, along with Al Jazeera colleagues Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, had been behind bars since December 29, 2013 in a case that sparked a global outcry.
Greste was sentenced to seven years jail on charges of defaming Egypt and aiding banned Islamists, prompting claims their trial was politically motivated and demands for a presidential pardon.
Fahmy was also sentenced to seven years’ jail while Mohamed was sentenced to 10 years.
News agency AFP reported Greste and Fahmy were eligible for deportation under a recent law enacted by president al-Sisi allowing the deportation of foreigners to stand trial or serve their sentences in their home countries.
There was no prospect that Greste or Fahmy would face trials in their home countries.
Fahmy was expected to be released from prison within days, a security official said on Sunday. There was no immediate word on the fate of Mohamed.
The official said paperwork work was being completed that would allow authorities to deport Fahmy to Canada.
Fahmy’s fiance Marwa Omara told news agency Reuters she was “hopeful” he would also be deported.
“His deportation is in its final stages,” Ms Omara said.
Al Jazeera’s acting director general Mostefa Souag released a statement that said Greste’s release was “good news, but not enough” and added the campaign to free the network’s journalists would not end until all three men were released.
“We’re pleased for Peter and his family that they are to be reunited,” Mr Souag said. “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.”
In January, an Egyptian appeals court ordered a retrial of the three men.
After the decision, Greste’s parents Lois and Juris Greste said they would push to have their son deported before a second trial.
At the time, Greste’s family said the deportation option had been strengthened because the retrial order meant his status changed from being a convicted person to merely being accused.
UPDATED! Jailed Al Jazeera Reporter Mohamed Fahmy Renounces Egypt Citizenship
image: Australian Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste (L) with his colleagues Mohamed Fadel Fahmy (C) and Baher Mohamed (R) during their trial in 2013 via AFP: Khaled Desouki
Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy has renounced his Egyptian citizenship, his family says, in a bid to follow his Australian colleague Peter Greste in being released from a Cairo jail.
Fahmy’s surrender of his Egyptian passport is a necessary first step for him to be released and deported as a foreign national under a decree issued by president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in November. He also has Canadian citizenship.
Canadian foreign minister John Baird said late on Monday (local time) that Fahmy’s release was “imminent”, following the freeing on Sunday of Greste.
The two men were jailed along with Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed on charges of aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood. A relative of Fahmy said he signed the papers giving up his citizenship more than a week ago.
“It was very hard for him because he is a proud Egyptian who comes from a family of military servicemen,” the relative told AFP.
An Egyptian official following the case said the final legal procedures for his deportation were being completed.
Soon after Greste’s release, Fahmy’s fiancee, Marwa Omara, said she was expecting him to be released “in the coming days”.
Their jailing sparked a global outcry and proved a public relations nightmare for the Egyptian president, who has cracked down on Islamists since toppling president Mohammed Morsi in July 2013.
Last month the three men’s convictions were overturned by an appeal court which ordered a retrial but kept them in custody.
In his first posts on his Twitter account after more than 400 days in jail, Greste – resting in Cyprus – said he would soon be heading home.
“Brother Mike and I due to head home to Australia shortly. Can’t wait for the family reunion,” he wrote.
“Special thanks to all who’ve supported us over the past year. MUST NOT FORGET THOSE STILL IN PRISON,” he wrote in another tweet.
Greste, who was deported after his release, said he felt great relief to be free after 400 days in prison but “incredible angst” about leaving two colleagues behind.
Al Jazeera has vowed to pursue the campaign to free both Fahmy and Mohamed.
But the channel’s head of newsgathering, Heather Allan, admitted she was not confident Mohamed would be released as he had no second passport.
“I can’t say I am confident, no. I just don’t know, honestly. Are we going to keep on fighting it? Absolutely. We are not going to leave him there,” she said.
Mohamed’s family have pinned their hopes on a presidential pardon or his acquittal on appeal.
Amnesty International said Greste’s release should not divert attention from the continuing imprisonment of Fahmy and Mohamed.
RELATED! July 31 2013: UPDATED! Manning Found Guilty of Espionage
Bradley Manning has been found guilty of espionage, not guilty of aiding enemy over his WikiLeaks release. The US soldier has been acquitted of aiding the enemy but found guilty of orchestrating the biggest leak of classified material in US history.
The decision to find Manning not guilty of the most serious charge has been called a “striking rebuke to military prosecutors”, who had argued that giving classified documents to WikiLeaks was akin to aiding al Qaeda because terrorists could read the internet.
But the 25-year-old former army intelligence analyst could still spend the rest of his life behind bars after being found guilty of most of the other charges he faced, including multiple counts of espionage.
Military judge Colonel Denise Lind found Manning guilty of 20 of 22 counts related to his leaking of a huge trove of secret US diplomatic cables and military logs to the WikiLeaks website.
The judge said she would begin sentencing hearings on Wednesday (local time), at the Fort Meade military base outside Washington, where the trial was held :: Read the full article »»»»
RELATED! Jan 14 2010: Journalist killed in Afghanistan
A BRITISH journalist has been killed alongside an Afghan soldier and a US marine in an attack on a military convoy in Afghanistan. It was the second time in two weeks that a Western journalist had been killed on an embedded assignment, underscoring the increased risk on the roads as military operations intensify in Afghanistan.
Rupert Hamer, defence correspondent of the Sunday Mirror, died when the armoured vehicle in which he was travelling was hit by a roadside bomb in Ghazni province in the south-east of the country.
Philip Coburn, a photographer with the same newspaper, sustained severe leg injuries and was being treated at a British military hospital at Camp Bastion in Helmand province. He was expected to be flown to Britain later this week :: Read the full article »»»»
RELATED! Feb 4 2011: Egypt, Journalists Attacked
Egyptian police detained two New York Times journalists during the day on Thursday, claiming it was for their own protection. Other reporters were chased and security forces stormed the hotels, journalists said.
Foreign photographers reported that a Greek photographer was stabbed in the leg, and others were being attacked near Tahrir Square as well.
Four Israeli journalists, including three from Channel 2 and one from Nazareth, were arrested by Egyptian military police in Cairo on Wednesday, but were released a few hours later.
The same day, CNN news correspondent Anderson Cooper and his crew were beaten by a mob of protesters. So were several reporters from the U.S.-based Washington Post.
On Monday, six journalists from Al-Jazeera were arrested. They, too, were released several hours later.
“There is a concerted campaign to intimidate international journalists in Cairo and interfere with their reporting,” said U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, commenting on the situation in a post on the Twitter social networking site Thursday afternoon.
It is expected that Friday post afternoon prayers – these acts of vigilantism will increase dramatically.