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Peter Greste: Al-Jazeera journalist freed by Egypt

Jailed al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste has been deported from Egypt, state media say, and is flying to Cyprus.

The Australian ex-BBC correspondent was arrested in December 2013 and imprisoned last June on charges that included spreading false news.

He was jailed with two other al-Jazeera men – Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed.

Presidential sources said Mr Fahmy would be deported to Canada after his dual Egyptian nationality was dropped.

All the defendants denied the charges against them and said their trial was a sham.

They were accused of collaborating with the banned Muslim Brotherhood after the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi by the military in 2013. The three men said they were simply reporting the news.

Al-Jazeera tweeted that it welcomed Peter Greste’s release and demanded Mr Fahmy and Mr Baher be freed.

FOREIGN PRISONERS

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi had said in November he was considering the possibility of granting pardons to the two foreign al-Jazeera journalists. He had earlier signed a decree on repatriating foreign prisoners.

Then in January, Egypt’s top court ordered a retrial of all three men.

A statement by the Egyptian Interior Ministry said it had been “decided to extradite Australian journalist Peter Greste… to his country today, 1 February (2015)… after the cabinet’s approval, in enforcement of the Presidential Decree no. 140 for the year 2014 regarding the rulings on extraditing defendants and deporting the convicts”.

An official told Associated Press the release had been co-ordinated with the Australian embassy in Cairo.

Cairo airport officials reported that Mr Greste had left on a plane for Cyprus at about 16:00 (14:00 GMT).

The BBC’s Orla Guerin in Cairo says Egyptian law requires those deported under these circumstances to either finish their sentence in their home country or be put on trial again there, and it is unclear whether the Australian authorities have agreed to that.

Mostefa Souag, acting director general of al-Jazeera Media Network said: “We’re pleased for Peter and his family that they are to be reunited. It has been an incredible and unjustifiable ordeal for them, and they have coped with incredible dignity.”

INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN

But he added: “We will not rest until Baher and Mohamed also regain their freedom. The Egyptian authorities have it in their power to finish this properly today, and that is exactly what they must do.”

There has been a huge international campaign to try to secure the release of the reporters.

Mr Fahmy holds Egyptian and Canadian citizenship and is the Egyptian-Canadian bureau chief.

His fiancee, Marwa Omara, quoted by Reuters, said she was “hopeful” he would also soon be released and deported to Canada.

Mr Mohamed, a producer, is an Egyptian national.

Mr Greste and Mr Fahmy were sentenced to seven years, while Mr Mohamed is serving 10.

The case has caused tension between Egypt and Qatar – where al-Jazeera is based – although ties between the nations have improved recently.