Australia

Freed journalist Peter Greste 'relieved' but 'angst' over jailed colleagues

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionPeter Greste: "The prison warden said it's time to pack your stuff... you're going"

Al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste says he is relieved to be free but feels "incredible angst" at leaving behind two of his colleagues in jail in Egypt.

Mr Greste was freed from prison and deported on Sunday after 400 days behind bars. He is now in Cyprus, en route to Australia.

Mr Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were arrested in 2013 on charges of spreading false news and aiding the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mr Fahmy and Mr Mohamed remain jailed.

In an interview with al-Jazeera, Mr Greste described his release as "a massive step forward" for the Egyptian authorities.

"I just hope that Egypt keeps going down that path with the others," the Australian journalist added.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionPeter Greste's family spoke of their happiness at the journalist's release from a Cairo prison

Mr Fahmy, who holds dual Egyptian and Canadian citizenship, could be freed if he renounces his Egyptian nationality, presidential sources say.

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said on Monday that Mr Fahmy's release was "imminent", without elaborating.

But there are still concerns about Mr Mohamed, an Egyptian who holds no dual nationality.

Speaking on Monday, Mr Greste said he "wasn't expecting" his release on Sunday and had been released with what felt like "just a few minutes' notice".

He described a "real mix of emotions" after learning he would be freed, with both a "sense of relief and excitement but also real stress in having to say goodbye to my colleagues and friends - people who've really become family inside that prison".

"It was a very difficult moment walking out of that prison. Saying goodbye to those guys, not knowing how much longer they would have to put up with this."

He expressed concern for Mr Fahmy and Mr Mohamed, as well as other journalists convicted in absentia.

"If it's right for me to be free then it's right for all of them to be free," he said.

Mr Greste, Mr Fahmy and Mr Mohamed, journalists for al-Jazeera English, were arrested in 2013 after being accused of collaborating with the banned Muslim Brotherhood after the overthrow of former President Mohammed Morsi by the military.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionOrla Guerin: "Peter Greste and his colleagues insist that the only thing they are guilty of is doing their jobs"

All three denied the charges against them and said their trial was a sham.

In June last year, Mr Fahmy and Mr Greste were sentenced to seven years in prison and Mr Mohamed to 10. Their sentences sparked an international outcry.

The three men's convictions were overturned on 1 January but they remained in custody pending a retrial.

Several students have also been held in the same case. The students deny working for Al-Jazeera but it is thought that material filmed on their phones was used by the network.

In a separate case, Abdullah El-Shamy, a journalist for Al-Jazeera's Arabic channel, was arrested in August 2013 when police broke up a protest by supporters of Mr Morsi.

He was released on health grounds in June 2014 after a hunger strike of nearly five months.

According to campaign group Reporters Without Borders, there are currently 165 journalists imprisoned around the world, including 15 in Egypt.


Timeline: Journalists' detention

Image caption Mr Fahmy (left) and Mr Mohamed remain in jail
  • 29 December 2013: Peter Greste and Mohamed Fahmy arrested in police raid on Cairo's Marriott Hotel. Baher Mohamed later arrested at home
  • 29 January 2014: 20 people including the three journalists referred to trial, charged with spreading false news, belonging to a terrorist organisation and operating without a permit
  • 22 February: First court appearance of the three journalists
  • 23 June: Defendants sentenced to seven years, with Baher Mohamed receiving an additional three years
  • 12 November: President Sisi signs decree allowing repatriation of foreign prisoners
  • 1 January 2015: Highest court orders retrial, but the three journalists not allowed bail
  • 1 February 2015: Peter Greste freed and deported, his two colleagues remain behind bars

Muted reaction in Egypt media

How journalists were jailed in Egypt

Who are the jailed journalists?


Related Topics

More on this story