Australia

Peter Greste returns home to Australia after jail in Egypt

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionPeter Greste told the BBC's Andrew Harding his mother ''smacked him over the ear'' and told him ''not to do it again''

Al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste has returned to Brisbane, Australia, to be reunited with his family following his release from an Egyptian prison.

At a news conference he described his relief and praised the long campaign to free him and his colleagues.

Mr Greste and two colleagues were arrested in 2013. They were convicted of spreading false news and aiding the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

The jailing of the journalists sparked an international outcry.

Speaking in Brisbane, Mr Greste thanked the Australian government, the public and his family for launching such a big campaign to free him and his colleagues.

"If I appreciated my family beforehand, what they have given me... I know more than anyone else perhaps that this campaign would not have had half the momentum if it was not for the incredible contribution of my parents and my brothers," he said.

He did not give details of the conditions in which the three journalists had been held but said they had spent a lot of time exercising to keep themselves fit. He said he had also spent a lot of time meditating.

Asked about the future, Mr Greste turned to his mother, Lois, saying "Mum, would you mind closing your ears for the moment?", at which she laughed and said: "Oh dear, I know what's coming."

"I don't want to give this up - my job. I'm a correspondent, it's what I do," Mr Greste said. "How I do it, whether I actually do go ahead with it, I don't know. That's the way I feel right now."

Mr Greste's colleagues, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, remain in prison.


Andrew Harding, BBC News, Brisbane

Behind the genuine smiles and the relief, Peter Greste is still wrestling with the knowledge that his colleagues Baher Mohamed and Mohammed Fahmy remain in prison in Cairo, and that his own public comments could yet influence their fates.

"It was tough leaving them behind. A real part of me feels that I should have dug my heels in," and refused to leave the prison without them, Peter told me, while acknowledging that would have been "the wrong decision."

And so, in public, he is cautious in his comments about the Egyptian authorities, and reluctant to discuss the details of his own incarceration, or the sensitive and ongoing diplomatic negotiations about his al-Jazeera colleagues.


'Opportunity for justice'

Speaking earlier upon his arrival in Brisbane, Mr Greste again called for the Egyptian authorities to release his colleagues, and others convicted with them.

"Egypt has an opportunity to show that justice does not depend on your nationality," he said. "If it's right for me to be free, it's right for them to be free."

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Peter Greste was received by family members and supporters at Brisbane airport

Mr Fahmy held dual Egyptian-Canadian citizenship, while Mr Mohamed is an Egyptian national.

However, Mr Fahmy has surrendered his Egyptian citizenship in order to facilitate his release, his family said on Tuesday. The journalist's brother said he had been asked to choose between his nationality and his freedom.

Canada says Mr Fahmy's release is imminent. The status of Mr Mohamed remains unclear.

Earlier this week, Mr Greste said he felt "incredible angst" at leaving his colleagues in a Cairo jail.

The three al-Jazeera journalists were arrested in 2013, after the military toppled the Muslim Brotherhood government, led by President Mohammed Morsi.

The men were convicted the following year of aiding the Brotherhood, which had been banned by Mr Morsi's successor, President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.

Mr Fahmy and Mr Greste were sentenced to seven years in prison and Mr Mohamed to 10. Their convictions were overturned on 1 January, but the men remained in custody pending a retrial.

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


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?

More on this story