The Egyptian government has deported detained Al Jazeera journalist, Peter Greste, to his home country.
The Australian, who has been held in prison for 400 days, boarded an Egypt Air flight on Sunday, the Doha based news agency has reported. Mr. Greste was accompanied by his brother.
However, two other Al Jazeera journalists, Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy, still remained imprisoned in Egypt.
All men were arrested in December 2013, detained, and later imprisoned for allegedly supporting the Muslim Brotherhood during their coverage of the protests that removed former President Mohammed Morsi from power. Mr. Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, is also currently in prison and being tried by the government of Abdel Fatah Al Sisi, who overthrew the democratically elected leader in a military coup.
The Al Jazeera journalists as well as the medium have denied any wrongdoing or collaboration with the Islamist group while the detention of the journalists as well as their conviction in June 2014 was condemned by world leaders and rights groups.
The journalists were sentenced to between seven and ten years in jail. On January 1, Egypt’s Court of Cassation overturned the sentences and ordered a retrial, but it is still not clear when the new trial will begin.
While reacting to Mr. Greste’s release, Al Jazeera welcomed it but demanded the immediate and unconditional release of the other two journalists.
The Acting Director General of Al Jazeera Media Network, Mostefa Souag, was quoted by the news agency as saying, “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.”
Also, the Managing Director of Al Jazeera English, Al Anstey, said he was relieved Mr. Greste was freed and on his way home to be reunited with his family.
“But we’ve got to focus that Baher and Mohamed are still behind bars, and seven of their colleagues that were sentenced to ten years in absentia are still sentenced today.”
In its reaction to Mr. Greste’s release, the Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, said it welcomed it.
“We welcome the release of Peter Greste.” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator. “We call on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to pardon and release Greste’s Al-Jazeera colleagues Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, and the other journalists still behind bars for doing their work.”
In a press statement, the CPJ stated that the family of Mr. Fahmy, a Canadian who also applied for deportation after being convicted at the same trial as Messrs. Greste and Mohamed in June last year, said on Sunday they had not heard if he will be released.
The third journalist, Mr. Mohamed, who is Egyptian, is not eligible for deportation, according to local reports.
An Egyptian official announced on Sunday that 312 prisoners are due to be released as part of a presidential pardon commemorating the fourth anniversary of the January uprising that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak. The official did not name the prisoners or give a date for their potential release.
The CPJ reports that Egypt is the sixth leading jailer of journalists in the world, with 12 imprisoned when CPJ conducted its annual prison census in December 2014. The CPJ produced the documentary “Under Threat” last year, which shows the risks journalists face inside the country.