BRISBANE, Australia (AFP) – Al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste said Thursday he was treated with respect during a 400-day prison ordeal in Egypt and plans to remain a foreign correspondent after an emotional homecoming in Australia.
Greste’s plane landed around 12.30am in Brisbane and he held a private reunion with his parents, brothers and other relatives before meeting the press.
He said he was ecstatic to be back after being deported on Sunday from Cairo, where he was held for allegedly aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood.
“I’ve dreamt about this so many times and the reality is nowhere near what I imagined it to be. It’s so, so much better,” said the award-winning journalist after arriving to cheers at his first open press conference since being released.
Greste said his time in jail was “a baptism of fire” and had been tough physically and mentally.
But he and fellow Al-Jazeera television colleagues, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed of Egypt, had been treated well.
“We certainly weren’t abused. We had some – we had access to all of the things that were needed. It was restrictive, I mean, there were things we weren’t comfortable with but then, it’s prison,” he said.
“The fact is I’m in pretty good health. There’s no problems that I have in any sense that I’m aware of anyway.
“We weren’t abused in any way, we were treated with respect and dignity as much as can be expected under the circumstances. So that was fine.”
However, when asked to describe his living space, he replied, “I’d love to. I’m afraid I can’t. There are all sorts of reasons, I’m afraid on this one I can’t tell you more detail.”
Prime Minister Tony Abbott hailed Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as “a friend of decency” on Thursday following Greste’s return home.
Abbott said he had spoken with the president to thank him for his efforts in releasing the journalist, suggesting that bilateral relations were unharmed.