Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the NZME. News Service office in Wellington.

Detained Kiwi journalist celebrates his release

Wayne Hay was released from detention in Egypt after being held for nearly a week. Photo / Twitter
Wayne Hay was released from detention in Egypt after being held for nearly a week. Photo / Twitter

A New Zealand journalist has been freed from an Egyptian jail after being detained for five days without charge.

Al Jazeera correspondent Wayne Hay, formerly a TVNZ reporter and presenter, was arrested with three colleagues while covering events in Cairo on Tuesday.

Their arrests followed the detainment of correspondent Abdullah al-Shami, who was arrested after the raid of the pro-Morsi sit-in at Rabaa al-Adawiya on August 14, along with Mohamed Badr, a cameraman for Al Jazeera's Arabic channel Mubasher Misr, who has been held for more than a month.

The network called for Egyptian authorities to release its staff unconditionally along with their belongings and equipment.

It said there had been a campaign against Al Jazeera, as the channel's offices were raided last month with security forces seizing equipment which was yet to be returned.

A post on the Al Jazeera website said Mr Hay, cameraman Adil Bradlow and producers Russ Finn and Mohammed Baher were freed yesterday afternoon.

Security officials at Cairo airport said Mr Hay and his colleagues were deported to London, Radio New Zealand reported.

They were forced to leave their equipment behind.

An Al Jazeera spokesperson told RNZ they were not given a reason for their detention.

Al Jazeera thanked all those who helped the group, especially the New Zealand, South African and Irish embassies in the Egyptian capital.

The network said three other employees were still being detained.

Mr Hay had a cold beer to celebrate his release after arriving safely in London.

Despite his harrowing experience in the Egyptian cells, he said he will continue to cover stories in the Middle East.

"It is daunting and it is a little scary at times, but sure I'm willing to go back because it's one of the big stories, it's a changing story and it's changing all the time," he told Newstalk ZB.

However, Mr Hay said he will be staying away from Egypt for a while.

Mr Hay's sister-in-law Sandy Eves-Glass said it was brilliant to wake to news of his release today.

She told TVNZ's Breakfast show the last week had been a "nightmare" for Hay's wife Nikki and their children.

Mr Hay had told his wife he and his colleagues had been treated well during their detention, Ms Eves-Glass said.

"They've had food, they've had water - obviously harrowing times, but they are OK."

Mr Hay and his family were going to come back to New Zealand, via a holiday in Bali, Ms Eves-Glass said.

Nikki Hay said it had been a "harrowing" few days.

"To have received that news this morning has been an absolute thrill for us," she told Breakfast from Bali.

She had spoken to her husband this morning, just before he left Syria.

"He was exhausted, but he was sounding absolutely fantastic."

Mrs Hay had not spoken to him yet about his treatment while he was being detained, but contacts at Al Jazeera kept her informed of his condition.

"We knew that he and his colleagues were getting plenty of food, plenty of water, and they were doing OK," she said.

Prime Minister John Key told the programme Mr Hay's detention showed the level of danger some journalists exposed themselves to.

New Zealand's embassy in Egypt would be "very pleased" with the journalist's release, he said.

- Additional reporting by Newstalk ZB


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