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Google executive is released in Egypt

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Google exec released in Egypt
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Wael Ghonim tells Egypt's Dream TV he was "kidnapped"
  • NEW: "We must bring down this political system that we have," he tells Dream TV
  • Google tweets that Ghonim is released
  • He went missing January 28 after warning of a government "war crime"

Cairo, Egypt (CNN) -- Google executive Wael Ghonim was released Monday in Egypt, the company said, more than a week after he went missing.

"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 protests in Egypt.

Minutes later, Ghonim added this tweet: "Gave my 2 cents to Dr. Hosam Badrawy. who was reason why I am out today. Asked him resign cause that's the only way I'll respect him."

Hossam Badrawi, often described as a relatively liberal politician, was recently elevated to become secretary general of the ruling National Democratic Party.

Later Monday, Ghonim gave an interview to Egypt's Dream TV, in which he described his ordeal and involvement in the protests.

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He said he was kidnapped at night as he was trying to get a taxi. "All of a sudden, four people surrounded me. They were kidnapping me. I yelled, 'Help!' But of course I knew these were security forces," he said.

Ghonim told Dream TV he was the administrator behind the influential "We are all Khaled Said" Facebook page that helped to organize and galvanize the protests. The page was dedicated to the memory of a young man allegedly beaten to death by police in Alexandria.

"We must bring down this political system that we have," he said.

Toward the end of the interview, Ghonim began to cry as he looked at pictures of people reportedly killed during the demonstrations.

"I want to say to every mother and every father that lost his child, I am sorry, but this is not our fault. I swear to God, this is not our fault. It is the fault of everyone who was holding on to power greedily and would not let it go. I want to leave," he told Dream TV.

Ghonim then got up and walked out of the interview.

Earlier, his family said they were expecting Ghonim's 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.

"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," Hazzem Ghonim said. But there's no answer all the time, [so] I thought he was arrested by these security people."

Eventually, Google issued a public appeal for information about 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 say that 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" on 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 about 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."

CNN's Ivan Watson contributed to this report.

 
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