CAIRO — Al Jazeera’s Australian journalist Peter Greste, speaking a day after his release from prison in Egypt, says 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.
Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed were arrested in December 2013 and later convicted over their coverage of the violent crackdown on Islamist protests that year.
There has been no word on the release of Fahmy and Mohamed, but in a statement Sunday Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said he is hopeful Fahmy will be released from jail soon.
In Greste’s first public comments since his release, he told Al Jazeera English on Monday that he is looking forward to watching a “few sunsets” and the stars, as well as spending time with his family.
He said: “It is those little beautiful moments of life that are really precious.”
Greste, Fahmy, and Mohamed were sentenced to at least seven years in prison on terrorism-related charges in a case widely condemned as a sham by human rights organizations.
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.
Fahmy is expected to be deported to Canada when released. It is not immediately clear what will happen to Mohamed, 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.
–With files from The Canadian Press