Egyptian authorities say they’ve released Australian Peter Greste, one of three journalists employed by Qatar-based Al Jazeera who have been imprisoned for more than a year.
Media reports citing Egypt’s state news agency say Greste was taken to Cairo’s airport to be deported to his native Australia, and Al Jazeera has issued a statement confirming Greste’s release.
The Guardian quoted a spokesperson for the Egyptian Ministry of Interior as saying:
“A presidential decree has been issued to deport him to continue his punishment period in Australia. The foreign ministry co-ordinated with the Australian embassy and his plane took off at 4pm or 4:10pm (local time).”
There was no immediate word on the fate of fellow Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, who were also charged with supporting the Muslim Brotherhood – a now-banned organization in Egypt – and convicted in a trial that drew international condemnation.
Al Jazeera denied the allegations against its employees.
While the broadcaster welcomed news of Greste’s release, it reissued its call for his two colleagues also to be freed.
Mostefa Souag, acting director general of Al Jazeera Media Network, said in a statement:
“We’re pleased for Peter and his family that they are to be reunited. 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.”
— Al Jazeera PR (@AlJazeera) February 1, 2015
The three men were arrested in December 2013 amid heightened tensions between Egypt and Qatar, which supported the Muslim Brotherhood-backed government of President Mohamed Mursi that was ousted by the military in mid-2013.
Relations between the two countries appear to have warmed in recent months. Egypt’s new President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with a special envoy representing Qatar’s Emir in December as part of a Saudi-backed effort to ease tensions.
That was followed by an announcement that Al Jazeera would suspend its Egypt-focused channel, Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr. The station had previously been a sore point between Doha and Cairo, with the new military-backed Egyptian government accusing Al Jazeera and Qatar of acting as the Brotherhood’s proxy by airing the group’s views.
Al Jazeera, for its part, said it always aimed to present all angles of its stories.