Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste has in his first interview since being freed from an Egypt jail after 400 days in captivity, called on the Egyptian authorities to release two of his colleagues still being held.
“I feel incredible angst about my colleagues, leaving them behind”, Greste said on Monday.
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“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 insisted.
Greste was put on a plane out of the country by the Egyptian authorities a day earlier.
Two other Al Jazeera journalists – Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy – are still imprisoned in Egypt.
The three were sentenced between seven and ten years in jail on charges including spreading lies to help a terrorist organisation – a reference to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
Greste added that his release is a “massive step forward” for Egypt and that he hopes the country will “keep going down this path” with his colleagues.
Goodbye to colleagues
Recounting his days in prison, Greste said he made a conscious attempt to stay fit physically, mentally and spiritually.
“I made a very concious effort to deal with all three of those things: to try and keep fit, running in a very limited space, to keep up an excercise programme, to keep mentally fit with study and spiritually fit too with meditation.
“Through all of that it was a way of enforcing a kind of discipline on myself and dealing with each day as it came. And hopefully, touch-wood, I haven’t come out of it too damaged.”
Greste said he was taken by surprise by his sudden release.
“I wasn’t expecting [to be released] at all, I woke up thinking of the campaign ahead of us.”
“I went for a run and the prison warden called me over and told me it’s time to pack your stuff. He told me the embassy is coming.”
“There was a mix of emotion boiling inside. Sense of relief and excitement, but a stress of having to say goodbye to my colleagues.”
“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.”
“I’ve got to know and accept Baher and Mohamed as family, they’re my brothers.”
“Mohamed Fahmy is an extraordinary professional, a dedicated journalist, very passionate and a strong-willed character.
“Baher is one of the most amazing family men I’ve ever met. If anyone’s suffered out of all of this, it is Baher, he has a wife, and one of his children was born while he was prison.”