Al Jazeera's Peter Greste freed from Egyptian prison

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Al Jazeera's Peter Greste Freed From Egyptian Prison

CAIRO (AP) -- Al-Jazeera English reporter Peter Greste left Egypt on Sunday after the president approved his deportation following more than a year behind bars in a case that was widely condemned by rights groups, officials said.

A Cairo airport official said Greste, an Australian national, is on an EgyptAir flight to Larnaca, Cyprus that took off shortly after 4 p.m. (1400 GMT) on Sunday.

An Egyptian prison official and the nation's official news agency said Greste was released following a presidential "approval." The official and an Interior Ministry statement said his release was an implementation of the new deportation law passed last year. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohammed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohammed were sentenced to at least seven years in prison on terrorism-related charges last year in a trial described as a sham by rights groups. There was no immediate word on the other two journalists.

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Al Jazeera's Peter Greste freed from Egyptian prison
FILE - In this Monday, March 31, 2014 file photo, Al-Jazeera English correspondent Peter Greste, appears in court along with several other defendants during their trial on terror charges, in Cairo, Egypt. A senior Egyptian prison official and the country's official news agency say Greste has been freed from prison and is on his way to Cairo airport to leave the country. (AP Photo/Heba Elkholy, El Shorouk, File) EGYPT OUT
Freed Al Jazeera and ex-BBC journalist Peter Greste "won't rest" until his colleagues are released, his family has said.
FILE - In this Monday, March 31, 2014 file photo, Al-Jazeera English producer Baher Mohamed, left, Canadian-Egyptian acting Cairo bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy, center, and correspondent Peter Greste, right, appear in court along with several other defendants during their trial on terror charges, in Cairo, Egypt. senior Egyptian prison official and the country's official news agency said Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, that Al-Jazeera's Australian reporter Peter Greste has been freed from prison. A Cairo airport official says Greste has left Egypt on a flight to Cyprus after his release from prison. The agency said his release on Sunday, after more than a year behind bars, followed a presidential "approval" and both said it was coordinated with the Australian Embassy in Cairo. (AP Photo/Heba Elkholy, El Shorouk, File) EGYPT OUT
FILE - This combination of three 2014 file photos shows from left, Canadian-Egyptian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, Al-Jazeera's Australian correspondent Peter Greste, and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed at a court room during their trial in Cairo, Egypt. An appeals court in Egypt on Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015 has ordered a retrial in the case of the three imprisoned Al-Jazeera English journalists. (AP Photo/Ahmed Abd El Latif, Hamada Elrasam, File) EGYPT OUT
FILE - In this Saturday, May 3, 2014 file photo, Al-Jazeera's award-winning Australian correspondent Peter Greste, appears in a defendants' cage in a courthouse near Tora prison in Cairo, Egypt. An Egyptian court on Monday, June 23, 2014, convicted three Al-Jazeera journalists and sentenced them to seven years in prison on terrorism-related charges after a trial dismissed by rights groups as a politically motivated sham. The verdict brought a landslide of international condemnation and calls for Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to intervene. El-Sissi, on Tuesday said he will not interfere in court rulings, sparking an international outcry. (AP Photo/Hamada Elrasam, File)
Al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste looks out from the defendant's cage during the sentencing hearing for journalists working for Al-Jazeera in a courtroom in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, June 23, 2014. An Egyptian court on Monday convicted three journalists from Al-Jazeera English and sentenced them to seven years in prison each on terrorism-related charges, bringing widespread criticism that the verdict was a blow to freedom of expression. The three, Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohammed, have been detained since December charged with supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been declared a terrorist organization, and of fabricating footage to undermine Egypt's national security and make it appear the country was facing civil war. (AP Photo/Ahmed Abd El Latif, El Shorouk Newspaper) EGYPT OUT
FILE - In this Thursday, May 15, 2014 file photo, from left, Mohammed Fahmy, Canadian-Egyptian acting bureau chief of Al-Jazeera, Australian correspondent Peter Greste, and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed appear in a defendant's cage along with several other defendants during their trial on terror charges at a courtroom in Cairo. Egypt’s state news agency says the trial of three Al-Jazeera English journalists and 17 others has adjourned until next week when the judge will deliver the verdict, five months after the trial opened. Fahmy, Greste and Baher have been in detention since December 29. (AP Photo/Hamada Elrasam, File)
A journalist covers her mouth with a tape to show her solidarity with detained journalists by Egyptian authorities during a sit-in, at the Martyrs square in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. Journalists and their supporters across the globe are protesting the detention of four Al Jazeera staffers in Egypt. From London’s Trafalgar Square and Lebanon’s Martyrs’ Square, media workers and free speech advocates gathered with masking tape stuck across their mouths. Peter Greste, Mohammed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed, and Abdullah Al Shamy, are among 20 defendants being tried on charges of belonging to and aiding a terrorist organization for their coverage of the Muslim Brotherhood. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Journalists cover their mouths with tapes to show their solidarity with detained journalists by Egyptian authorities during a sit-in, at the Martyrs square in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. Journalists and their supporters across the globe are protesting the detention of four Al Jazeera staffers in Egypt. From London’s Trafalgar Square and Lebanon’s Martyrs’ Square, media workers and free speech advocates gathered with masking tape stuck across their mouths. Peter Greste, Mohammed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed, and Abdullah Al Shamy, are among 20 defendants being tried on charges of belonging to and aiding a terrorist organization for their coverage of the Muslim Brotherhood. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
A Lebanese journalist holds a placard, to show her solidarity with detained journalists by Egyptian authorities during a sit-in, at the Martyrs square in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. Journalists and their supporters across the globe are protesting the detention of four Al Jazeera staffers in Egypt. From London’s Trafalgar Square and Lebanon’s Martyrs’ Square, media workers and free speech advocates gathered with masking tape stuck across their mouths. Peter Greste, Mohammed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed, and Abdullah Al Shamy, are among 20 defendants being tried on charges of belonging to and aiding a terrorist organization for their coverage of the Muslim Brotherhood. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
The brothers of jailed Australian journalist Peter Greste, Mike (L) and Andrew Greste (R), speak to the media during a press conference in Brisbane on January 2, 2015. Egypt's top court on January 1 ordered a retrial of three Al-Jazeera reporters, Australian Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed, whose imprisonment on charges of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood triggered global outrage, but kept them in custody pending a new hearing. AFP PHOTO / Tertius PICKARD (Photo credit should read TERTIUS PICKARD/AFP/Getty Images)
Lois (R), 75, and Juris Greste, 78, parents of incarcerated journalist Peter Greste, deliver a press conference in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on July 31, 2014. Jailed Australian journalist Peter Greste will lodge an appeal against the conviction and seven-year sentence handed down by an Egyptian court, his family said on July 25. Greste and two Al-Jazeera colleagues -- Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian national Baher Mohamed -- were jailed last month for defaming Egypt and aiding banned Islamists. The case sparked a global outcry and demands for a presidential pardon amid claims it was a politically motivated trial. AFP PHOTO/ TONY KARUMBA (Photo credit should read TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images)
Juris Greste (R) comforts his wife Lois (L) during a press conference over the sentencing of their son Australian Al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste, in Brisbane on June 24, 2014. The parents of Greste on June 24 said they were in a dark place after their son had been jailed for seven years by a Cairo court for aiding the banned Muslim Brotherhood, but vowed to battle on for the sake of press freedom. Greste and his Al Jazeera colleague, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, were both sentenced to seven years in Jail by a Cairo court on June 23 for aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood and 'spreading false news'. AFP PHOTO / PATRICK HAMILTON (Photo credit should read PATRICK HAMILTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Lois (L) and Juris Greste (R), parents of jailed Australian Al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste, attend a press conference in Brisbane on June 24, 2014. The parents of Greste on June 24 said they were in a dark place after their son had been jailed for seven years by a Cairo court for aiding the banned Muslim Brotherhood, but vowed to battle on for the sake of press freedom. Greste and his Al Jazeera colleague, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, were both sentenced to seven years in Jail by a Cairo court on June 23 for aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood and 'spreading false news'. AFP PHOTO / PATRICK HAMILTON (Photo credit should read PATRICK HAMILTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Cameraman Baher Mohamed, left, and Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, the Cairo bureau chief for al Jazeera English, look at reporters sitting behind them Monday, March 31, 2014, as Judge Mohamed Nagy listens to the defendants' complaints about the conditions they are being held in. Three Al Jazeera journalists, including Australian Peter Greste (not pictured) are standing trial on terror charges. (Amina Ismail/MCT via Getty Images)
Peter Greste - BBC correspondent. Image sent July 2008. landscape format (Photo by Jeff Overs/BBC News & Current Affairs via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - APRIL 29: Dr. Paula Kahumbu and BBC journalist Peter Greste are interviewed by Scholastic Kids reporter Juliette Kessler at the Tribeca Film Festival April 29, 2005 in New York City. (Photo by Thos Robinson/Getty Images)
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The release of Greste, 49, who also holds Latvian nationality, was welcomed by Al-Jazeera and Amnesty International, but both said the fate of the other journalists must not be forgotten.

Acting Al-Jazeera Director General Mostefa Souag says the Qatar-based network "will not rest until Baher and Mohamed also regain their freedom."

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, welcomed the news of Greste's release but said "nothing can make up for his ordeal."

"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."

The three were arrested over their coverage of the violent crackdown on Islamist protests following the military overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi in 2013. Egyptian authorities accused them of providing a platform for Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, now declared a terrorist organization.

The three were also convicted for spreading false information, faking reports to show that the country was on the verge of civil war, and for aiding the Brotherhood's goal of portraying Egypt as a failed state. Mohammed received an additional three years for his possession of a spent bullet. Three other foreign reporters received a 10-year sentence in absentia. Twelve other co-defendants were sentenced to between seven and ten years, some of them in absentia.

Rights groups and several media outlets condemned the verdicts as political, saying the three were doing their job during a tumultuous time.

According to a law passed late last year, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has the power to deport foreign defendants or convicts if it's considered to be in the interest of national security. The law was seen as providing a potential legal instrument with which to free the journalists.

El-Sissi had repeatedly said he wants to end the case, which has prompted a storm of international criticism.

Greste had only been in Egypt for weeks, working on a short relief for his colleagues, when he was detained.


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