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
Freed Al Jazeera and ex-BBC journalist Peter Greste "won't rest" until his colleagues are released, his family has said.
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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