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World

Egypt Frees Journalist Accused Of Aiding Muslim Brotherhood

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And let's get an update now on a story that led to an international outcry over press freedom. After 400 days behind bars in Egypt, an Australian journalist was released and deported yesterday. Peter Greste was reporting for Al-Jazeera English when he and two co-workers were arrested and charged with supporting the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood. He gave his first interview this morning in Cyprus, and he spoke about what he's looking forward to now that he's free.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PETER GRESTE: Watching a few sunsets. I haven't seen that in a sort of very long time - watching the stars, feeling the sand under my toes and the little things.

GREENE: Even though Greste is free, his two colleagues remain in prison, as do other journalists. NPR's Leila Fadel has this report from Cairo.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: In Brisbane, Australia, Peter Greste's parents and brother gave yet another press conference.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Laughter).

FADEL: But this time they couldn't stop grinning. Greste was on his way home. Lois Greste is Peter's mother.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

LOIS GRESTE: We're very excited and very pleased, and thank goodness this is all over

FADEL: When he gets home, they will pop the cork in a bottle of champagne that's been sitting in the fridge since the day Greste was convicted on terrorism-related charges in an Egyptian court - a day his family thought he'd be exonerated. But the excitement over Greste's release was tempered by the continued imprisonment of his two colleagues, an Egyptian, Baher Mohamed, and Mohamed Fahmy, a dual Egyptian and Canadian citizen. Andrew Greste is Peter's brother.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

ANDREW GRESTE: Peter was arrested with Baher and Mohamed, and they also deserve to be free. Peter won't rest until they're released from prison, and we hope that'll follow in the very near future.

FADEL: The three men were arrested at the end of 2013 and were put on trial - a trial human rights groups describe as a sham. They were accused of supporting or being members of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood. But the evidence presented in court showed nothing but the normal tools of journalism - cellphones, notebooks, laptops and cameras. Their convictions were overturned on appeal, and a new trial ordered.

A new Egyptian law allowed the president to approve Greste's deportation and trial in his home country, but Greste will not face prosecution in Australia. Mohamed Fahmy's fiancee, Marwa Omara, says Fahmy's release and expected deportation to Canada are in the final stages, but in order to be deported, Fahmy was forced to give up his Egyptian citizenship. And Baher Mohamed's family says they are worried that he will be forgotten in an Egyptian prison cell. He has no other citizenship, and Mohamed has three young children - his youngest born while he was in prison. Al-Jazeera English issued a statement expressing relief over Greste's release, but called for their other two journalists to be freed immediately. Al Anstey is the managing director of Al-Jazeera English. He spoke on the channel following Greste's release.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

AL ANSTEY: The other thing that we've got to focus on today is that Baher and Mohamed are still behind bars, the same injustice being amongst the world's best journalists, and yet, 400 days, they are still behind bars.

FADEL: At least nine other journalists are behind bars, including a freelance photographer who's been jailed for more than 500 days without charge. Leila Fadel, NPR News, Cairo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.