Al Jazeera journalist 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.
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 in prison.
“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 for a few days until he travels home to Australia.
Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian national Baher Mohamed remain in prison. They were jailed for seven to 10 years on charges including spreading lies to help a terrorist organisation – a reference to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
Egyptian authorities accuse Al Jazeera of being a mouthpiece of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Qatar-backed movement which President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi toppled in 2013 when he was Egypt’s army chief.
Egypt’s Interior Ministry said on its Facebook page that al-Sisi released Greste under a decree issued in November authorising him to approve the deportation of foreign prisoners. Greste said if it was appropriate for him to be free, it was right for his two colleagues to be free, adding that he had only found out about this release order an hour before he was allowed to leave prison.
“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 Greste, who described the two men as “family”.