Feb 2, 2015 10:23 AM

Al-Jazeera reporter calls his release from Egypt a 'rebirth'

The Associated Press

CAIRO (AP) Al-Jazeera's Australian journalist Peter Greste, speaking a day after his release from prison in Egypt, said Monday that his freedom was something of a "rebirth" and that key to his well-being while incarcerated for more than a year was exercising, studying and meditating.

In his first public comments, Greste told Al-Jazeera English that he was looking forward to watching a "few sunsets" and the stars, as well as spending time with his family.

"It is those little beautiful moments of life that are really precious," he said.

Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohammed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohammed were arrested in December 2013 and later convicted over their coverage of the violent crackdown on Islamist protests following the military overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi in July that year.

Egyptian authorities accused them of providing a platform for Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, now declared a terrorist organization. But authorities provided no concrete evidence. The journalists and their supporters insist they were doing their jobs during a time of violent upheaval.

The three were widely seen as having been caught up in a regional power struggle between Egypt and Qatar, which funds Al-Jazeera and had been a strong backer of Morsi.

Greste's release follows a relative thaw of ties between Cairo and Doha.

There has been no word on the release of Greste's two colleagues. While Fahmy is expected to be deported to Canada when released, it is not immediately clear what will happen to Mohammed, who has only Egyptian citizenship.

Greste, 49, said it was difficult for him to walk out of prison and leave behind inmates with whom he bonded. He said because of several false starts of his release, he had remained unsure he'd be free until he was seated on the EgyptAir plane that took him to Cyprus on Sunday.

"It was a very difficult moment walking out of that prison, saying goodbye to the guys, not knowing how much longer they all have to put up with this," he said.


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