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Australian journalist Peter Greste released from Cairo prison

Jailed Al-Jazeera journalist has been deported from Egypt following a presidential decision and is en route to Australia

Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste
Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste
Image: AP/Press Association Images

Updated 19.15pm

EGYPT HAS DEPORTED Al-Jazeera reporter Peter Greste to his native Australia on today after holding him for more than 400 days despite global condemnation.

The Al-Jazeera English reporter was arrested in Cairo in December 2013.

Flight home 

Greste departed on a flight to Larnaca, Cyprus soon after his release from Cairo’s Tora prison, interior ministry and airport officials told AFP.

The Al-Jazeera English reporter was detained along with two colleagues, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and an Egyptian producer, Baher Mohamed, in December 2013 and charged with aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood movement.

The Qatar-based channel welcomed Egypt’s decision and expressed hope that its other two journalists would be released.

Canada said today it remained “very hopeful” that a Canadian-Egyptian Al-Jazeera reporter jailed by Egypt would be released soon, following the freeing of his Australian colleague.

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said the Canadian government was working closely with Egypt to secure the freedom of Mohamed Fahmy.

Mideast Egypt

“We’re pleased for Peter and his family that they are to be reunited,” Mostefa Souag, acting director general of Al-Jazeera Media Network, said in a statement for the pan-Arab television network.

“We will not rest until Baher and Mohamed also regain their freedom,” he said.

Fahmy’s relatives also expect him to be deported under a decree passed by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi that allows for the transfer of foreigners on trial. But it was not immediately clear when he would be released.

The arrest of the three reporters set off a global outcry, with Washington and the United Nations leading calls for their release.

International pressure 

Australia and Canada have piled pressure on Egypt to release the two and Sisi had repeatedly said he regretted they had not been deported soon after their arrest.

Their high-profile trial, in which Greste and Fahmy were sentenced to seven years in prison and Mohamed to 10, proved a public relations nightmare for Sisi, who has cracked down on Islamists since toppling president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.

The verdict was overturned and a court in January ordered a retrial for the three journalists.

“There is a presidential decision to deport Peter Greste to Australia,” an interior ministry official told AFP today, minutes before Greste departed from Cairo airport.

Greste and Fahmy are eligible for deportation under a recent law that stipulates their trial in their home countries.

There is no prospect that Greste or Fahmy would face trials in their home countries and Sisi’s decree appears to have been formulated in a way that allows Egypt’s authorities to save face.

Imprisonment 

Rights group Amnesty International said Greste’s release should not overshadow the ongoing imprisonment of Fahmy and Mohamed.

The two “must not be forgotten as their colleague Peter Greste is deported from Egypt,” the group said in a statement.

Police had arrested the journalists at the peak of a diplomatic row between Cairo and Qatar, which owns Al-Jazeera.

The broadcaster had been critical of the deadly crackdown on Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement following the Islamist leader’s overthrow.

Qatar has since moved to mend ties with Egypt and Al-Jazeera shut down its Arabic-language Egyptian affiliate channel, which supported the Brotherhood.

 - © AFP, 2015

Read: Protester tears up anti-Islam banner at Clonskeagh Mosque march>

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