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Al-Jazeera journalist Greste heads home to Australia

February 4, 2015

Al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste headed home to Australia on Wednesday, a family spokeswoman said, following his release from an Egyptian jail where he was held for more than 400 days.

Greste was expected to arrive at Brisbane’s international airport at 00:40 Thursday (1440 GMT Wednesday) where he will have a private reunion with his family after which he will walk out to meet supporters and give a brief statement to the media.

“On Thursday morning Australian journalist Peter Greste will arrive home in Australia — a free man, after 400 days in a Cairo jail,” the spokeswoman said in a statement.

The award-winning correspondent was freed and deported on Sunday and immediately flew with his brother to Cyprus.

In his first posts on his official Twitter account since his release from jail, Greste thanked his supporters and said he would soon be heading to see his family in his native Australia.

“Brother Mike and I due to head home to Australia shortly. Can’t wait for the family reunion,” he wrote.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said Greste had told them from Larnaca airport that he was “elated” to be going home but was concerned about his Al-Jazeera colleagues still behind bars.

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

His colleagues remained behind in an Egyptian prison, though Fahmy’s family said Tuesday he had renounced his Egyptian citizenship in a bid to pave the way for his release.

“Special thanks to all who’ve supported us over the past year. MUST NOT FORGET THOSE STILL IN PRISON,” Greste wrote in another tweet.

The 49-year-old also posted a picture of himself standing with his feet in the sea, giving the victory sign, writing: “Free in Cyprus! Feels sweet. Peter back online for first time in 400+ days.”

The news of Greste’s imminent arrival came as Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he had spoken with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi overnight and thanked him for his efforts to release the journalist.

A statement from the prime minister’s office said that Abbott had “expressed hope that Mr. Greste’s colleagues Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed might be released soon”.

Greste was to hold a press conference later Thursday with his parents Lois and Juris and brothers Andrew and Mike.

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