One Al Jazeera Journalist Freed While Two Remain Prisoners of Egyptian Crackdown
Supporters welcomed news of Peter Greste's deportation but warned they 'will not rest' until colleagues Fahmy and Mohamed are also freed
One of the three Al Jazeera journalists who had been held in Egypt for 400 days has been freed, sources reported Sunday.
Peter Greste, an Australian national, has reportedly boarded an Egypt Air flight and is being accompanied by his brother. However, Greste's colleagues, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed, remain imprisoned for allegedly colluding with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood in a case that has sparked international condemnation.
A recent presidential decree in Egypt stated that imprisoned foreign nationals may be deported to complete their sentence in their home country, which observers note is likely the reason behind Greste's release.
Though the news of Greste's deportation was widely celebrated, many connected to the case demanded the release of Fahmy and Mohamed, in addition to the numerous other wrongly convicted journalists currently detained as part of a sweeping crackdown against dissent in Egypt.
Al Jazeera Media Network released a statement saying that its campaign to free the journalists in Egypt will not end till all three have been released.
"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," said Mostefa Souag, acting Director General of Al Jazeera Media Network. However, Souag added: "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."
Al Anstey, managing director of Al Jazeera English, said he was relieved Greste was freed and on his way home to be reunited with his family, but also spoke of the need to free Baher and Mohamed.
"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," Anstey said.
Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, also welcomed the news of Greste's release but added, "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."
All three men, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said, "are facing trumped up charges and were forced to endure a farcical trial marred by irregularities. Continuing to detain Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy is completely unjust and unwarranted."
Fahmy has also reportedly applied for deportation to Canada and his fiancée Marwa Omara told reporters she was "optimistic" about his chances. The case of Mohamed, however, is more complicated because he is an Egyptian national and therefore does not have the same options for release.
Mohamed's brother Assem told the Guardian: "Baher will not be released. Until now only Peter … but as always what happens in Egypt it’s the Egyptians who pay."
At least 12 journalists had been jailed in Egypt in 2014—double the number imprisoned the previous year—according to a December report by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
More than 16,000 people have been detained as part of a sweeping crackdown on dissent in Egypt, which has particularly targeted government opponents and critics, as well as media workers and human rights activists.