The 28-year-old flew out of the troubled Middle Eastern country overnight and is believed to have landed in one of the Gulf states this morning, possibly Dubai.

His King Country-based parents, Mike and Lin Johnson of Piopio in the King Country, said they had spoken to their son ahead of his release and they were ecstatic.

"We're so relieved," Mike Johnson said. "He is safe and well and it is a huge weight off our minds."

Johnson said Glen had confirmed he was unharmed from the more than fortnight in jail. "He said the Yemeni authorities treated him with the utmost respect. At no time did they intimidate him and Glen said that on numerous occasions they went out of their way to accommodate him, despite his illegal entry into their country."

Mike Johnson said Glen had been in Yemen for about 30 hours before being caught by authorities. He had travelled into the country illegally with a band of people smugglers who had set off from Djibouti, less than 100km away over water on the African continent.

He had no further details on how Glen had been arrested or what went wrong on the story he was following. He did not know what Glen intended to do next.

Glen had been allowed to call his family once the Yemenis established he was not a security threat. Mike Johnson said at that point, the Yemenis moved quickly to get the documentation together that would allow Johnson to fly out. He had also been allowed to contact the New Zealand embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Officials in Yemen had announced last Friday Johnson would be released. The freelance journalist, trained at Canterbury University, had been on commission for a UK magazine for the people smuggling story.

Yemen is in the middle of an uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh.