Egyptian authorities have released Mahmoud Hussein, an Egyptian journalist working for Al Jazeera TV who was held in pre-trial detention for more than four years, the Qatar-based television network confirmed Saturday.
Hussein was arrested in December 2016 when he returned to Egypt for a family holiday and accused of incitement against state institutions and spreading false news.
Mostefa Souag, acting director general of Al Jazeera welcomed the news of Hussein's release, calling it “a moment of truth and an inspiring milestone towards press freedom”.
In a written statement, Souag said, "no journalist should ever be subjected to what Mahmoud has suffered for the past four years for merely carrying out his profession," the Al Jazeera website reported.
'Dad is out’
The 54-year-old Egyptian national arrived at his home in greater Cairo Saturday night to beating drums and celebratory chants by relatives and neighbours.
"His father died before witnessing this moment, he was waiting for it for a long time," Hussein's mother told AFP shortly before her son's arrival.
She was surrounded by throngs of relatives and supporters had set up colourful lights to celebrate Hussein's return.
"Even though there are bail conditions ... Dad is out of the police station, thank God. Freedom to all those oppressed," his daughter, Aya Hussein, said on Twitter.
It was not immediately clear what the release conditions were, but Hussein’s brother, Nageh, said his brother may have to spend several hours a week in a police station.
Hussein's release came weeks after Egypt and Qatar restored ties, following a three-year Saudi-led freeze on relations with Doha.
Egypt, along with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, followed the lead of Gulf powerhouse Saudi Arabia and cut ties with Qatar in June 2017, alleging it backed radical Islamist groups and was too close to Riyadh's rival Iran, claims Doha denied.
Ties between Qatar and other Gulf nations were restored following a Gulf summit held in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia last month.
Caught in a spat
Al Jazeera was caught up in a spat between Cairo and Doha after the 2013 military ouster of Egypt's Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, who was backed by Qatar.
Cairo considered it a mouthpiece for Morsi's outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement, and access to its website has been blocked in Egypt since 2017.
After Morsi's ouster, authorities arrested three Al Jazeera journalists, including Australian Peter Greste, provoking international condemnation.
Faced with accusations similar to those levelled against Hussein, they were released in 2015 after receiving pardons from President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)