2 Feb 2015

Journalist Peter Greste released by Egypt

7:32 am on 2 February 2015

Australian Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste has left Egypt after 400 days in prison on charges that included aiding a terrorist group.

Al-Jazeera news channel's Australian journalist Peter Greste, left, and his colleagues, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, centre, and Egyptian Baher Mohamed listen to the original verdict in June.

Peter Greste (left), Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Baher Mohamed listen to the original verdict in June. Photo: AFP

There was no official word on the fate of his two Al Jazeera colleagues - Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian national Baher Mohamed - who were also jailed in the case that provoked an international outcry.

The three were sentenced to seven to 10 years on charges including spreading lies to help a terrorist organisation - a reference to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

Mr Fahmy's fiance, Marwa Omara, told Reuters she was hopeful he would be released from Cairo's Tora prison soon and deported to Canada.

A Cairo airport official said Mr Greste was on an EgyptAir flight to Larnaca, Cyprus that took off shortly after 4pm local time on Sunday.

The timing of the reporter's release came as a surprise, just days after Egypt suffered one of the bloodiest militant attacks in years.

More than 30 members of the security forces were killed on Thursday night in Sinai, and ensuing comments from President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi suggested he was in no mood for compromise.

Many Egyptians see Qatar-based Al Jazeera as a force set on destabilising the country. Egyptian authorities accuse the channel of backing the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement which Mr Sisi, then army chief, toppled in 2013.

Al Jazeera said its campaign to free its journalists from Egypt would not end until all three were 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," it said in a statement.

"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."

The case has contributed to tensions between Egypt and Qatar, though speculation had been rising that Saudi mediation had improved ties, raising the possibility that Sisi would deport or pardon the journalists.

- Reuters