Peter Greste anxious for jailed al-Jazeera colleagues

Two colleagues remain in Cairo prison, as does Irish national Ibrahim Halawa

Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy stands behind bars at a court in Cairo in a May  2014 file photo. Mr Fahmy is  expected to be deported to Canada within days. Photograph: Reuters

Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy stands behind bars at a court in Cairo in a May 2014 file photo. Mr Fahmy is expected to be deported to Canada within days. Photograph: Reuters

 

Al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste said yesterday it was a great relief to be freed from prison in Egypt, but that he felt “incredible angst” about leaving two colleagues behind.

Mr Greste was released on Sunday after 400 days in a Cairo jail. He had been sentenced to seven years on charges that included aiding a terrorist group, security officials said.

“This [release] has been like a rebirth,” he said in an interview on al-Jazeera, his first public remarks since he was freed. He is in Cyprus until he travels home to Australia.

Mohamed Fahmy, a Canadian-Egyptian, and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian national, remain in prison. They were jailed for between seven and 10 years on charges including spreading lies to help a terrorist organisation, a reference to the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

There are hopes that imprisoned Irish national Ibrahim Halawa could also be released soon, although there was no news of him yesterday.

Muslim Brotherhood

An Egyptian court sentenced 183 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death yesterday on charges of killing police officers, part of a sustained crackdown by authorities on Islamists.

United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon welcomed Mr Greste’s release and hoped that the cases of Mr Fahmy and Mr Mohamed “will also be resolved shortly” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. “The secretary general again underscores the importance of safeguarding freedom of speech and association in Egypt.”

Egypt’s interior ministry said on its Facebook page that Gen Sisi released Mr Greste under a decree issued in November authorising him to approve the deportation of foreign prisoners.

Two colleagues

“I wasn’t expecting it at all . . . I can’t tell you the real sense of that mix of emotion, between a real sense of relief and excitement, and also real stress in having to say goodbye to my colleagues,” said Mr Greste, who described the two men as “family”.

He called for the release of Mr Fahmy and Mr Mohamed, who he said had suffered the most in prison because he had missed the birth of his child.

Mr Fahmy was expected to be deported to Canada within days. “For Egypt, this has been a big step forward. I hope Egypt keeps going down this path and releases the others,” he said.

Asked what he would most like to do now, Mr Greste said: “Watching a few sunsets. I haven’t seen one of those at all for a very long time.” – (Reuters)