Al-Jazeera English reporter Peter Greste has left Egypt after the president approved his deportation following more than a year behind bars, in a case that was condemned worldwide as an assault on freedom of speech.
The reporter and two of his colleagues 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 Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, now declared a terrorist organisation.
Mr Greste, an Australian national, left on an EgyptAir flight to Larnaca, Cyprus following a presidential “approval”, officials said. It followed the passing of a new deportation law last year.
Mr Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohammed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohammed were sentenced to at least seven years in prison on terrorism-related charges last year in a trial described as a sham by human rights groups. There was no immediate word on the fate of the other two journalists.
The release of Mr Greste, 49, who also holds Latvian nationality, was welcomed by Al-Jazeera and Amnesty International, but both said the fate of the other journalists must not be forgotten.
Acting Al-Jazeera Director General Mostefa Souag says the Qatar-based network “will not rest until Baher and Mohamed also regain their freedom”.
Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, welcomed the news of Greste’s release but said “nothing can make up for his ordeal”.
“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.”
Rights groups and media outlets condemned the verdicts as political, saying the three were simply doing their job.