The Australian Al Jazeera journalist, Peter Greste, was released Sunday morning from Tora prison in Cairo by presidential decree following over 400 days in prison.
However, the situation regarding his two imprisoned colleagues, Egyptian Baher Mohamed and Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy, remains unclear.
Egyptian authorities deported Greste following President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s approval, and the Foreign Ministry coordinated with the Australian Embassy to book a plane ticket for his deportation on Sunday afternoon, according to state-run news agency MENA.
Greste was arrested along with his two colleagues, Mohamed and Fahmy, while they were working for Al Jazeera English in December 2013. The journalists were convicted of spreading false news and supporting Egypt’s now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
The three received sentences ranging between seven and ten years in prison each. Egypt’s Court of Cassation accepted on 1 January an appeal filed in the case of the three jailed journalists, and ordered a retrial.
Fahmy was handed the same sentence as Greste, of seven years, while Mohamed was given an extra three years, on top of the initial seven years, for possession of a fired bullet casing.
Al-Sisi approved a law in November 2013 allowing for the deportation of foreign defendants to their home countries before a court issues a final verdict against them. The law gives the president the power to deport them when it is in “the state’s interests”.
The Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, told journalists in Sydney on Monday, that Greste was released unconditionally from jail in Cairo, and has since left Egypt.
“He was escorted by Australian consular officials and at the airport he was with his brother Michael and Australia’s Ambassador to Egypt Dr Ralph King,” she added.
Bishop said that her government has been in continuous contact with the Egyptian government over the Al Jazeera case, and several other governments, including some in the Middle East as well as Latvia, given Peter’s family background.
Bishop said that her government has no details on the situation of the other detained journalists, “but I know the Canadian Foreign Minister will continue to make representations and Australia will follow their fate with considerable interest as well”.
The Qatar-based network, Al Jazeera, welcomed Greste’s release, but insisted on keeping the efforts going regarding the release of the other two journalists, according to their statement.
Mostafa Sowag, Al Jazeera Network’s General Director, said in the 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,” he added.
”We will not rest until Baher and Mohamed also regain their freedom,” Sowag also said. “The Egyptian authorities have it in their power to finish this properly today, and that is exactly what they must do.”
Reports claimed that the Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy is to renounce his Egyptian nationality for him to be deported from Egypt. However, his lawyer Negad Al-Boraei denied Sunday that Fahmy renounced nationality, but confirmed he has to in order to be qualified for deportation, according to pan-Arab news channel Al-Arabiya.
Member of the defence team in the case Shaaban Said confirmed that there are ongoing talks with the Egyptian presidency regarding the release of Fahmy and Mohamed, according to state run Al-Ahram newspaper.