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Google's Wael Ghonim Gives His First Interviews After He's Released

Update at 5:10 p.m. ET: Wael Ghonim, the Google executive and political activist who was detained by Egyptian authorities for more than a week, just gave two interviews. First to ONTV Egypt, which posted the video on YouTube:

YouTube

Alive in Egypt has provided a translation of the video.

Also, Ghonim spoke to Dream TV. We're relying on a translation of that provided by Sultan Sooud al Qassemi, a columnist for The National, an English language publication in Abu Dhabi.

According to Qassemi's translation, Ghonim said that he was not a traitor nor a hero that all he did was "use a keyboard. The real heroes are the ones on the ground."

The interview was dramatic and emotional. Ghonim said at the time of "kidnapping" he was taking a taxi and suddenly four people surrounded the car, they blindfolded him and transferred him to "state security."

"We are beautiful people," Qassemi tweets Ghonim said. "We have to restore dignity to all Egyptians. We have to end corruption. No more theft. Egyptians are good people."

Ghonim also said he talked to Egypt's Interior Minister. He said what authorities wanted to know was whether outsiders were involved in organizing the protests. Ghonim said the protests were a spontaneous youth movement. He cried on TV and said "I want to tell families who lost their sons this is not our fault. This is the fault of those clinging to power."

Update at 1:10 p.m. ET. This message just popped on to the Twitter page of Wael Ghonim, the Google executive and political activist who was taken into custody by Egyptian authorities more than a week ago:

"Freedom is a bless that deserves fighting for it. #Jan25"

Since that is Ghonim's page, it looks to be the surest sign yet that he has indeed been released.

Update at 12:10 p.m. ET: While (as we said earlier) The Wall Street Journal is quoting, by name, a State Department spokesman as saying that Google executive Wael Ghonim has been released from custody in Egypt, The New York Times' Jennifer Preston is tweeting that "I talked to State Dept. It is not confirmed that @ghonim has been released. Too many conflicting reports. Let's get it right."

Update at 11:18 a.m. ET: The Wall Street Journal now reports that "Google executive Wael Ghonim has been released from government custody in Egypt."

And it adds that " 'we have indeed received confirmation of his release,' State Department spokesman Mark Toner said."

Activist/entrepreneur/blogger Habid Haddad, who has been a source of solid information on what's happening, tweets that:

"State Department confirms to WSJ that Wael @Ghonim has been released. Family still waiting for him though (via @ltlmsnour)"

Our original post:

"More than a week after his mysterious disappearance in Egypt, Google executive and political activist Wael Ghonim will be released from government detention on Monday, according to his family and a prominent businessman," The Wall Street Journal reports.

As the Journal's All Things Digital blog adds, Ghonim "an Internet activist who has helped run social networking sites critical of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's government, has become a rallying symbol for the demonstrators demanding the resignation of the long-time president."

The New York Times says that "Egypt's state-run Nile TV reported on Sunday that Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq had called the network to announce that Mr. Ghonim would be released on Monday afternoon. Earlier in the day, Naguib Sawiris, a prominent Egyptian businessman who was among several others meeting with Vice President Omar Suleiman over the weekend, said that he had been assured Mr. Ghonim would be released on Monday afternoon."

It is now mid-afternoon in Cairo. We'll update if word comes in that Ghonim is free. Many folks are watching for word on Twitter as well.

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