Google exec freed from Egyptian custody

Google confirms release of regional product manager Wael Ghonim

Google executive Wael Ghonim has been released from government custody in Egypt today, and he's already tweeted about his freedom.

Ghonim, who has been held in government detention since Jan. 28, is based in Cairo and works as a regional product and marketing manager for Google. He's reportedly also an Internet activist who helped run social networking sites critical of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

"It is a huge relief that Wael Ghonim has been released," said a Google spokesman in an e-mail to Computerworld. "We send our best wishes to him and his family."

Earlier today, Ghonim reached out to his Twitter followers, tweeting, "Freedom is a bless that deserves fighting for it."

He later posted on Twitter that Dr. Hosam Badrawy, the new head of Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party, was responsible for his release. It's not yet clear what role Badrawy played in any negotiations for Ghonim's release.

Ghonim was allegedly seized by Egyptian plainclothes police officers during a street rally on Jan 28. News agency Al-Jazeera posted a video of a man being grabbed and forcibly led away from the people he had been marching with. While Al-Jazeera posted a statement saying it couldn't be sure the person being detained was Ghonim, the video has remained up on the news site.

Protesters, looking for dramatic governmental change, took to the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities late in January.

The government was quick to issue an order that to cut Internet access in the country in an apparent attempt to keep information from getting in or out of Egypt. Protesters had been using social media sites, particularly Facebook and Twitter, to organize.

Five days later, reports emerge that Internet access was being restored.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Read more about web 2.0 and web apps in Computerworld's Web 2.0 and Web Apps Topic Center.

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