Peter Greste released: Australian reporter 'won't rest' until colleagues are free, family say

The Australian left on an EgyptAir flight to Larnaca, Cyprus, after the president approved his deportation

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The Independent Online

Freed Al Jazeera and ex-BBC journalist Peter Greste “won't rest” until his colleagues are released, his family has said.

Mr Greste's deportation from Egypt after 400 days in prison has been greeted as a "welcome relief" by human rights campaigners.

The Australian left on an EgyptAir flight to Larnaca, Cyprus, after the president approved his deportation in a case that has drawn international condemnation.

Mr Greste, 49, was arrested in December 2013 and imprisoned last June on charges that included spreading false news. He was jailed with two other al-Jazeera journalists - Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed.

 

Speaking at a press conference in Brisbane, his brother Andrew told reporters: "He is very happy to be on his way home.

"On a sombre note, I know Peter wanted me to make this point - Peter's two other colleagues are still there. They also deserve to be freed. Peter won't rest until they are released from prison."

 

His family, who managed to speak to him on the phone, said he was in "great spirits" and would return to Australia "when he is ready".

Andrew Greste also thanked everyone who had tweeted to back the campaign, saying: "Without the worldwide support we could not have got through it."

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa deputy director, described Mr Greste's deportation as "a welcome relief but nothing can make up for his ordeal".

BBC News and Current Affairs director James Harding said "he was jailed for nothing more than doing his job, all our thoughts must now be with his two colleagues in the hope that they too will shortly be freed".

Mr Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mr Fahmy and Egyptian Mr Mohamed were sentenced to at least seven years in prison on terrorism-related charges last year in a trial described as a sham by rights groups. There was no immediate word on the other two journalists.

But Mr Greste was released following a presidential "approval", officials said, following a new deportation law passed last year.

greste-family.jpg
Peter Greste's father Juris (left), brother Andrew (centre) and mother Lois (R) smile after holding a press conference in Brisbane

Mr Greste, and Mr Fahmy had sought deportation under new Egyptian legislation which allows foreign nationals to be transferred to their home countries to face trial or serve their sentences in cases of the "highest interest of the state".

The convictions of all three men were overturned by the Court of Cassation on January 1 on procedural grounds, but they were kept in detention pending a retrial.

Acting Al-Jazeera director general Mostefa Souag said the Qatar-based network "will not rest until Baher and Mohamed also regain their freedom".

The sentiment was echoed by Ms Sahraoui, who added: "It is vital that in the celebratory fanfare surrounding his deportation the world does not forget the continuing ordeal of Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy, who remain behind bars at Tora prison in Cairo."

The three were arrested over their coverage of the violent crackdown on Islamist protests following the military overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi in 2013. Egyptian authorities accused them of providing a platform for Mr Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, now declared a terrorist organisation.

UK journalist and Al-Jazeera English correspondent Sue Turton, who was among those who was sentenced to 10 years in prison by the Egyptian court for "falsifying news", aired her ongoing frustrations on Twitter.

She wrote: "Can't believe Peter is free. But it's all tinged with a desperate need to get Baher and Mohamed out too. Leave no one behind #FreeAJStaff

"Dear President Sisi, you released Peter after 400 days but realise we won't shut up till Mohamed & Baher are out & all cleared #FreeAJStaff"

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond welcomed Mr Greste's release but said he was "concerned" that Mr Fahmy and Mr Mohamed were still in jail.

In a statement he said: "It also appears that charges remain against the other journalists convicted in absentia, including British nationals Dominic Kane and Sue Turton. I call on the Egyptian authorities to review their sentences as a matter of urgency.

"We continue to believe that stability and prosperity in Egypt is dependent on open and inclusive politics and on full respect for the rights contained in the Egyptian constitution. I call on the Egyptian government to take further action to ensure the release of other journalists from prison, to release political detainees and to relax restrictions on civil society".

PA

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