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Peter Greste: Australian journalist on his way home after being released and deported from Egypt

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February 02, 2015

Australian journalist Peter Greste has been deported from Egypt after 400 days behind bars,and has flown to Cyprus on his way home to Australia.

Greste was set free by order of Egypt's president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi under a new law allowing foreign prisoners to be deported.

The Al Jazeera journalist travelled straight to the airport with his brother, and was said to be in good health when he boarded the plane to Cyprus.

There was no official word on the fate of his two colleagues — Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian national Baher Mohamed — who were also jailed in a case that provoked an international outcry.

Speaking in Brisbane this morning, Greste's brother Andrew said the journalist was "very happy to be on his way home".

"He is currently with our brother Mike in Cyprus where he is gathering his thoughts for the trip home. He is safe, healthy, and very, very happy to be on his way home," he said.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop spoke to Mr Greste shortly after he was released and this morning she told reporters he had been released "unconditionally".

"He was immensely relieved, and he was desperate to come home to Australia and reunite with his family: his parents Lois and Juris and his brother Michael, who was with him, and his other brother Andrew," Ms Bishop said in Sydney.


She said Australian consular officials in Egypt moved as quickly as they could to collect Greste from prison and escort him to the airport and make arrangements for his departure.

"From my discussion with him he was very keen to be back on a beach and be lying in the sun in Australia," she said.
"He expressed his heartfelt thanks for the support he's received here in Australia during this ordeal. He thanked the Australian Government, the public of Australia and particularly the journalists who had rallied to his cause. He told me that it had sustained him through the very long time that he spent in jail.

"He is now in Cyprus. He has been met by Australian consular officials there and will then make his way home to Australia to be with his family and friends once more."


Ms Bishop thanked consular staff in Egypt and a number of governments around the world who made representations on Peter Greste's behalf, specifically the Latvian government.

In a joint statement, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said Greste's release was "wonderful news".

"As we've said from the beginning, being a journalist is not a crime," the statement read.

"We continue to urge for the release of Peter's two colleagues, Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy." 

In June last year Greste was sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of defaming Egypt and aiding banned Islamists, sparking claims the 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, though one month ago a court ordered a retrial of the case.

Al Jazeera senior correspondent Sue Turton was sentenced in absentia to a decade in jail by the same court in Cairo.

She told ABC NewsRadio she was thrilled by the release of Greste, who had been behind bars since December 29, 2013.

"It's extraordinary. I don't know how I would have coped in that scenario but this man has dug deep and has shown really that when you are put in an awful situation not of your making and you know you're a completely innocent man that you just have to just somehow get through it," she said.

Another of Greste's Al Jazeera colleagues, Heather Allen, told ABC NewsRadio of the moment she first heard his voice after his release.


"This voice said 'hello', and I thought it was actually his brother Mike, and I said, 'hi Mike', and this voice said to me, 'it's not Mike', and I said 'well who is it'?" she said.

"A voice said 'what Australian voice would you like to hear the most?' And I said, 'well, Peter' and he said 'it is Peter'."

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.


Fahmy was expected to be released from prison and deported to Canada within days, a security official said on Sunday.

Fahmy's fiance Marwa Omara told news agency Reuters she was "hopeful" he would be freed soon.

"His deportation is in its final stages," she said.

There was no immediate word on the fate of Mohamed, whose case could be more complex because he does not possess a foreign passport.


Greste release 'good, but not enough'


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.


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