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Greste calls release ‘step forward’, urges Egypt to free colleagues

February 2, 2015

Australian journalist Peter Greste on Monday described his release from a Cairo prison as a big step forward for Egypt and but said he felt “incredible angst” for two colleagues still in jail.

“This is a massive step forward… I just hope that Egypt keeps going down that path with the others,” Greste told Al-Jazeera in his first interview since leaving prison and flying to Cyprus on Sunday.

Greste, 49, was arrested for allegedly aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood, along with colleagues Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed of Egypt.

The award-winning correspondent was freed and deported on Sunday, and immediately flew with his brother Michael to Cyprus, where he has been resting before returning to Australia.

Speaking to the pan-Arab television network, Greste said he hoped his two colleagues would be released soon.

“Amidst all this relief, I still feel a sense of concern and worry. If it’s appropriate for me to be free, it’s right for all of them to be freed,” he said.

The journalist spoke of the “stress of having to say goodbye to my friends and colleagues.”

The arrest of the three journalists over a year ago sparked worldwide condemnation, with Washington and the United Nations leading calls for their release.

They were arrested at the height of a diplomatic row between Egypt and Qatar, which owns Al-Jazeera.

The broadcaster had been critical of the deadly crackdown on Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement following the Islamist leader’s overthrow.

Qatar has since moved to mend ties with Egypt, and Al-Jazeera has closed its Arabic-language Egyptian affiliate which backed the Brotherhood.

Greste said he felt a “real mix of emotions” upon hearing that he was to be released because it meant leaving behind Fahmy and Mohamed.

“When you spend 400 days in such close proximity with people, you get to know them really well.

“It was a really difficult moment walking out and leaving the prison, saying goodbye to those guys, not knowing how much longer they will have to put up with this,” he said.

“I’ve got to know and accept Baher and Mohamed as family, they’re my brothers.”

Asked what he wanted to doing after more than a year in jail, Greste said he was looking forward “to watching a few sunsets, watching the stars, feeling sand under my toes”.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.