Australian journalist Peter Greste is looking forward to “beer and pork”, after being released after 400 days in a Cairo prison.
The Al Jazeera reporter was deported immediately by Egyptian authorities while awaiting a retrial and is now resting in Cyprus.
Speaking at a media conference this morning, his relieved brother, Andrew Greste, joked the things he was looking forward to were “two of the rare commodities in Egyptian prison”.
The release came as a surprise to the family, although Greste’s brother said there were rumours of his freedom emerging yesterday morning “a lot more than normal”, that they approached “with the usual amount of cautious optimism”.
“Egypt is a very uncertain and unpredictable place and until he was on that plane then anything could have happened,” Andrew Greste said.
He currently with his other brother, Mike, in Cyprus. Andrew said Peter was “safe, healthy and very very happy to be on his way home”.
“We don’t know what the trigger or turning point was to getting him out,” Andrew said.
He thanked everyone involved in lobbying for his brother’s freedom, from foreign minister Julie Bishop to lawyers Gilbert and Tobin, the Latvian embassy and ambassador (Greste has dual Latvian citizenship), the ABC and the journalists “who have not let this story go away” and even the family’s local “fixer” in Cairo.
“Firstly, [Peter] wanted to thank all the people who have supported him, who have given time, money and support in ensuring his freedom,” Andrew said. “We couldn’t have had finer people assisting us. We have been continually humbled by your generosity and outpouring of support,” Andrew said
He said his brother was “on a high right now”, but needed time to readjust. “We want to ensure that things are kept at a reasonable and manageable level,” he said.
His father, architect Juris Greste, said the family’s relief was enormous and also thank their supporters.
“While we are in a knighthood mode, dare I say, I would commend them and recommend them for a collective knighthood one and all,” he joked. “They’ve done an absolutely sterling job.”
His mother, Lois, said she was “ecstatic” about her son’s release.
“I just can’t say how happy I am about it. Thank goodness this is all over,” she said
“It’s difficult to realise that this day has actually come even though I sort of dreamed about it quietly, not daring to think about it too much. It’s arrived now.”
Lois Greste believes Peter will recover well, but needs space to begin with.
“I’m sure he’ll be fine,” she said
For now, Andrew Greste said it was important to “give him a little bit of time to gather his thoughts and figure out what Peter wants to do”.
But one key focus for Greste was the release of his Al Jazeera colleagues, Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian national Baher Mohamed, who remain in prison. The trio were convicted in June 2014 of aiding terrorists, belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood and producing false news, despite a deeply flawed trial that failed to produce any evidence to substantiate the charges.
In December last year the Egyptian appeals court ordered a retrial of the case, but refused to release the trio on bail, which led Greste and Fahmy to seek deportation.
“Peter won’t rest until they’re released from prison,” Andrew said.
The last time Peter Greste set foot in Australia was a family holiday in the Whitsundays in August 2013.
While beer, pork and prawns are on his list of things to eat, his father joked that his son would face one more challenge after his ordeal when he’s finally reunited with his family.
“Mum will probably put him over her knee,” Juris said.
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