Google executive Wael Ghonim was released Monday in Egypt, the company announced.
“Huge relief — Wael Ghonim has been released. Our love to him and his family,” the company tweeted shortly after 8 p.m. in Cairo (1 p.m. ET).
Ghonim’s Twitter account, which had not had a posting since he went missing January 28, carried a tweet around the same time. “Freedom is a bless (sic) that deserves fighting for it,” the tweet said, ending with the hashtag “#Jan25,” a reference to the Egypt protests.
Earlier, Ghonim’s family said they were expecting his release Monday, 10 days after his disappearance. His brother Hazzem Ghonim told CNN that he received word from Egyptian telecommunications billionaire Naguib Sawiris that authorities would release Ghonim by 4 p.m. (9 a.m. ET).
Wael Ghonim is a Dubai-based marketing executive for Google in the Middle East. After the anti-government protests erupted in the Egyptian capital, he joined in.
“Heading to Tahrir square now. Sleeping on the streets of Cairo, trying to feel the pain of millions of my fellow Egyptians,” Ghonim tweeted on January 26.
One of his last tweets before he disappeared asked people to pray for Egypt. “Very worried as it seems that government is planning a war crime tomorrow against people. We are all ready to die,” he wrote.
His disappearance prompted a frantic search around Cairo.
“I was asking about him in the hospital, and these other places,” said Hazzem Ghonim. “But there’s no answer all the time, [so] I thought he was arrested by these security people.” Ghonim said he received no response from the government.
Eventually, Google issued a public appeal for information on Ghonim’s whereabouts. In the meantime, activists mounted an internet “#FreeGhonim” campaign calling for his release.
Sunday night, Egyptian state TV announced that newly-appointed Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq had called the station to inform them Ghonim would be released Monday afternoon.
It was the first admission from the government that the missing Egyptian had been in custody for more than a week.
During a live telephone interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, Candy Crowley pressed the prime minister over why Egyptian security forces conducted a wave of detentions of journalists and activists in recent days.
Three times Shafiq said he could not understand the question, though he responded quickly to questions on other topics. Asked a fourth time, the prime minister said the arrests were “not at all intended,” adding “I insist to assure all of the authorities here not to harm anyone and not to bother anyone or injure anyone doing work.”
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