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lunes, 7 de febrero de 2011

Missing Google Exec Wael Ghonim Apparently Released

Wael Ghonim, a Google executive who has been missing in Egypt for over a week, now looks to be free, after Egyptian authorities broke their silence on his whereabouts over the weekend, telling his family members and friends the activist would be released Monday..

[Update, 10:50 a.m. PST 2/7] The government seems to have made good on that promise, as Ghonim seems to be released from secret imprisonment. At least that’s what seems to be the case, according to his Twitter account, which has now been updated via a Blackberry with the message: “Freedom is a bless that deserves fighting for it. #Jan25″

In addition to being the top Google marketing executive in the Middle East, Ghonim is an internet activist who had been critical of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in the days leading up to the violence that has paralyzed Egypt.

On Sunday night Ghonim’s brother told The Wall Street Journal in a telephone interview from Cairo that the Google executive would be released at about 9 am ET.

“Wael is going to be released tomorrow at 4 p.m., several people from the authorities … called us to tell us,” Hazem Ghonim said.

Ghonim hasn’t been heard from since January 27th, the night before protesters held what they called a “Day of Rage” filled with violent clashes between police and protesters.

Since his disappearance, Ghonim has become a symbol to internet activists who have struggled to overcome internet and cell-phone blackouts, which have accompanied widespread media repression, including violent attacks against journalists that have left at least one reporter dead.

Ghonim, described by The Journal as a father of two who is in his 30s, is thought to be the anonymous activist who created the Facebook page that first called for the Jan. 25 protest that sparked the uprising, according to The New York Times.

Ghonim has also been a volunteer for the pro-democracy campaign of Mohammed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Angency, who has returned to Egypt to oppose Mubarak.

Separately, Reuters reported that Egyptian telecom mogul Naguib Sawiris said Sunday that Egyptian authorities had told him that Ghonim would be released Monday. Sawiris told Orascom Telecom, a television satellite channel he owns, that he had lobbied for Ghonim’s release during a meeting between Vice President Omar Suleiman and opposition groups, the wire service reported.

And CNN International anchor Hala Gorani tweeted that Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq had told Egyptian State TV that “Ghonim will be released tomorrow Monday at 4pm.” Taking an appropriately circumspect stance, Gorani added the hashtag #waitandsee.

Last week, Google asked for the public’s help in locating Wael Ghonim. “The safety of our employees is very important to Google,” the company said, “so if anyone has any information please call the following U.K. number: +44 20 7031 3008. ”

Ghonim — who tweets @ghonim — posted the following ominous message on Twitter before he disappeared: “Pray for Egypt. Very worried as it seems that government is planning a war crime tomorrow against people. We are all ready to die.”

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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