Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste can’t quite remember the story he had worked on that day back in December of 2013. But he will never forget how the day ended. “I was getting ready to go out for dinner with a friend, with a BBC colleague.” There was a knock at the door, Greste recalled during an event today at London’s Frontline Club. “Eight guys burst in and pushed me to the back of the room. They didn’t say anything, they didn’t tell me who they were, they didn’t explain why they were there, they just started going through, searching the room, rifling through all of my equipment.”
When Greste demanded to know who the men were, one member — the leader, it seemed — said it was none of his business. And yet, even as Greste was being marched through the lobby of his hotel, he was “concerned, but not overly concerned,” as he was not surprised as a journalist in a country like Egypt to have a “brush with the authorities.”
Even after he’d been placed in handcuffs and taken to a police cell, Greste said he “didn’t think it was that serious…I knew we hadn’t done anything wrong.” The journalist said he had “pushed boundaries” on dozens of occasions in other places, when he “upset governments, pissed these guys off,” but Greste felt confident he had not taken any risks since he arrived in Egypt. He believed his arrest would be resolved quickly. “These things tend to come and go quite swiftly.” Instead, Greste would spend the next four hundred days in custody.