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Wael Ghonim, missing Google executive, released by Egyptian government [Updated]

February 7, 2011 |  9:15 am

Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who has been missing since participating in the first few anti-government protests in Egypt, was released on Monday, according to reports from Al Jazeera.

The Times' Alexandra Zavis reported the news on our sister blog, Babylon & Beyond:

A brother of Wael Ghonim, Google's head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa, told the network he was freed Monday and was on his way to Tahrir Square, the center of anti-government protests in Cairo.

Officials as Google were unavailable for comment on Monday morning.

Al Jazeera English posted a video on YouTube, which can be seen above, reporting that Ghonim was released on Monday.

Ghonim is Google's head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa and has been reported missing since Jan. 27, after taking part in protests that began on Jan. 25.

6a00d8341c630a53ef0147e22a0ce4970b-800wi Many anti-government demonstrators in Egypt have said for days that they believed Ghonim was being detained by the Egyptian government.

But the Egyptian government hadn't confirmed that it was holding Ghonim until Sunday night, when the state-owned station Nile TV said that was the case.

Nile TV reported that Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq had called the network to announce Ghonim's Monday release.

Naguib Sawiris, an Egyptian businessman also told a TV station that he owns, that he had been assured by Vice President Omar Suleiman that Ghonim would be freed Monday afternoon.

Sawiris is member of a self-appointed group of opposition leaders in Egypt who have met with the government to negotiate political reforms and the release of prisoners has been a key demand of opposition representatives.

On Friday, Egypt's 6th of April opposition movement announced that it had elected Ghonim as its spokesman, stating that if the government wanted to talk to the protest group, it should talk to Ghonim. That move was made in an effort to force the Egyptian government to release him, the group said, according to reports.

Before the demonstrations began in his home country, Ghonim had written about his plans to take part in Egypt's anti-government protests, stating that he would do so despite his family wanting him to remain out of the action.

The protests have called for the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who has held office for three decades, as well as changes to the nation's constitution and other political reforms.

On Jan. 27, the day Ghonim was first reported missing, he wrote on his Twitter account:

Pray for #Egypt. Very worried as it seems that government is planning a war crime tomorrow against people. We are all ready to die #Jan25

[Updated 9:25 a.m.: Video of Al Jazeera English report, as posted on YouTube, on Ghonim's release added.]

[Updated 11:03 a.m.: A Google spokesman said the company has confirmed Ghonim's release, saying "It is a huge relief that Wael Ghonim has been released. We send our best wishes to him and his family."

Google also tweeted from its official company account, @Google, "Huge relief--Wael Ghonim has been released. Our love to him and his family."]

GoogleGhonim

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Twitter.com/nateog

Video: Al Jazeera English reports Wael Ghonim's release. Credit: Al Jazeera English on YouTube

Photo: Wael Ghonim's Facebook profile photo. Credit: Facebook

Image: A screenshot of Google's tweet confirming Ghonim's release. Credit: Twitter

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