EGYPT: Released Google executive says he is neither hero nor traitor
A detained Google executive who became a rallying symbol for anti-government protesters in Egypt said he was neither a hero nor a traitor in an emotional television interview just hours after his release Monday.
Wael Ghonim's comments on Dream TV were translated by Sultan Sooud al Qassemi, a columnist for the National, an English-language publication in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and posted on Qassemi's Twitter account. According to the translation, Ghonim said: “I am not a hero. I only used the keyboard. The real heroes are the ones on the ground.”
Ghonim, Google's head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa, had traveled to Egypt from his home in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He disappeared Jan. 27 after joining the protests, and his whereabouts were not known until Egyptian television stations reported Sunday that he would be released the next day.
Ghonim was quoted as saying in the interview that he had administered a Facebook page that helped rally protesters. He said he was in a taxi when four people surrounded the car, blindfolded him and transferred him to “state security."
Although he said he was not mistreated in custody, he said that “nothing justifies kidnapping.”
His interrogators wanted to know whether outsiders were involved in organizing the protests, he said. He told them that it was a spontaneous youth movement .
“This is the era where people who have good intentions are considered traitors,” he was quoted as saying. “If I was a traitor, I would have stayed by the swimming pool in my house in the UAE.”
Ghonim said he also spoke with Egypt’s new interior minister, who treated him “like an equal.”
"We are a beautiful people," he said. "Please, everybody, this is not a time to settle scores; this is a time to build our country."
Ghonim said he cried when he found out that people had died during the unrest.
"I want to tell families who lost their sons this is not our fault," he said. "This is the fault of those clinging to power."
-- Alexandra Zavis
Photo: Freed Google Inc. executive Wael Ghonim breaks down during a television interview. Credit: Dream TV