Al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste returned home to Brisbane, Australia on Thursday, following his release from jail in Egypt. However, two of his colleagues, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, remain detained in the country.
Greste was greeted at the airport with much fanfare by family members, supporters, and members of the media. During a press conference he told reporters that Cairo should release his co-workers and that he felt “incredible angst” over leaving them behind. “Egypt has an opportunity to show that justice does not depend on your nationality,” Grest said. “If it’s right for me to be free, it’s right for them to be free.” The Australian refrained from sharp criticism of the Egyptian government, trying not to endanger their release.
Australian journalist Peter Greste celebrates on arrival at Brisbane International Airport on Thursday. (Photo: David Hunt)
Meanwhile on Tuesday, Fahmy, a dual Egyptian-Canadian national, renounced his Egyptian citizenship in a bid to end his detention. Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird told reporters that the jailed journalist could set free within hours, characterizing his release as “imminent.” However, the status of al-Jazeera’s third staff member, Mohamed, who only holds Egyptian citizenship, remains unclear.
The three journalists were arrested in December 2013 following their coverage of the violent crackdown against the Islamist supporters of Mohammed Morsi. Local authorities accused the men of providing a platform to the Muslim Brotherhood, designated as a terrorist organization; but their detention could partly be attributed to the regional power struggle between Egypt and Qatar. Egypt likely wanted to send a message to Doha, which operates al-Jazeera, for supporting the Islamists. But, analysts now point to a rapprochement between the two Arab states, after a high level meeting between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and a top Qatari delegation in December.
Press freedom organizations continue to criticize Egyptian leaders for incarcerating other reporters. Freedom House gave Egypt a “Not Free” rating, while the the Committee to Protect Journalists, an advocacy group, says that at least 12 journalists remain detained the country. Many are linked to Islamic news organizations that criticize the Cairo government.