When Peter Greste was arrested in Egypt, his family were shocked but not panicked. Peter had been a foreign correspondent for two decades in numerous dangerous countries, and been detained before. He was only in Egypt on temporary assignment – how much trouble could he be in?
A lot, it quickly became clear. Peter was put into solitary confinement, then charged with threatening national security. No evidence was ever produced, but after a sham trial he was given a seven-year sentence.
Peter’s family, meanwhile, were working to free him. Rather than wait on official channels, the Grestes were soon running an international media campaign, and for the 400 days Peter spent in prison his plight was seldom out of the headlines. The process was by no means plain sailing, nor was there always agreement, but the Grestes were galvanised rather than paralysed by the crisis.
In their book Freeing Peter each of the Grestes writes frankly and movingly about how they pulled together as a family, and the times they didn’t. About the daily uncertainty, the paucity of information, the strain of decision making, the emotional visits to the prison, the incomprehensible Egyptian legal system, and the overwhelming support from every level of Australian society.
Peter superbly depicts the effects of incarceration on his state of mind, and his battle not to construct a mental prison within the physical one.
At Byron Writers Festival you can hear Peter Greste in a session called Foreign Correspondents with Chris Hammer who, as a roving international correspondent for SBS TV’s Dateline program reporting from more than 30 countries across six continents, and author Debbie Whitmont, the ABC’s former Middle East correspondent.
On Saturday 4 August you can catch Greste in the session Weapons of War: No Holds Barred with The Saturday Paper’s chief political correspondent Karen Middleton and former theologian from the US Sarah Sentilles, whose book Draw Your Weapons tells the true stories of both a conscientious objector during World War II and a former prison guard at Abu Ghraib. Peter Greste will also feature in a satellite event at the Byron at Byron on Friday 3 August.
Tickets at www.byronwritersfestival.com.
Extraordinary fables, memoirs, political analysis and tales of hope and tragedy all made for another successful Byron Writers Festival, held at the Elements of Byron resort under crisp blue winter skies.
Byron Writers Festival launched last night with a 200 strong crowd. There were a few famous faces in the crowd including Thomas Keneally author of Schindler's List.
The Festival is finally here! The small team at Byron Writers Festival works all year to create this renowned gathering, Australia’s largest regional literary festival that explores the myriad threads of our daily lives, our communities and the broader world.