Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Sunday (Maroochydore, Australia)

Fight for Free Speech; Peter Greste Won't Rest until Fellow Al Jazeera Journalists Are Free, He Tells ADAM SHERWIN

Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Sunday (Maroochydore, Australia)

Fight for Free Speech; Peter Greste Won't Rest until Fellow Al Jazeera Journalists Are Free, He Tells ADAM SHERWIN

Article excerpt

"I DIDN'T see a single sunset for 400 days. I never saw the stars," said Peter Greste, the Al Jazeera reporter released from an Egyptian cell following international protests over his treatment, as he recalled the bleakest hours of his incarceration.

While the ordeal is over for the Australian former BBC journalist given a seven-year sentence on trumped-up charges of spreading "false news" and helping the banned Muslim Brotherhood, his celebrations will not be complete until his two colleagues have also won their freedom.

Mohamed Fahmy, Al Jazeera bureau chief in Cairo, and journalist Baher Mohamed face a re-trial on Monday following their release on bail, after they too spent more than a year behind bars.

Fahmy, a dual Egyptian-Canadian citizen, was given a seven-year sentence but Mohamed, an Egyptian national, was sentenced to a further three years on a separate charge involving the illegal possession of weapons.

"We are confident that in a trial that follows due process, the conclusion (early release) will be the same. We believe we will be vindicated," said Mr Greste, who was released and deported to Australia a fortnight ago.

"The guys are on bail, which is encouraging.

"We just need to let the courts work their way through. I hope with the bottom of my heart that these guys are released."

The 49-year-old winner of the Peabody Award for documentaries, who previously reported for the BBC News channel, wants to put his experience to use by becoming an advocate for freedom of expression, a cause threatened by authoritarian governments and extremist Islamic groups.

"As long as this issue has helped raise the profile of the debate about freedom of expression - the public's right to know and the freedom of the press in a functioning society - then I think it's been worth it," he said.

He hopes to capitalise on the global campaign that ultimately influenced the Egyptian authorities.

"We are now very strongly identified with freedom of the press and freedom of speech. …

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