Updated at 3:00 p.m. on February 8.
A detained Google executive whose abduction catapulted him to a cause celebre in Egypt's pro-democracy protests was released from government detention on Monday. By Tuesday afternoon, the freed Wael Ghonim was speaking to thousands in Tahrir Square, CNN reports.
Ghonim conducted a video interview after his release, which has been circulating online and has further fueled anti-government protesters in Egypt:
Ghonim, Google's head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa, had been detained since January 27 when he joined protests in Cairo. The Wall Street Journal called Ghonim a key figure in the revolt.
Ghonim had traveled from his home in Dubai and was on his way to Tahrir Square, the heart of the anti-government demonstrations, when he was arrested. Before disappearing, Ghonim tweeted that he had been “brutally beaten up by police people” and that he was “very worried as it seems that government is planning a war crime tomorrow against people. We are all ready to die.”
Ghonim’s first tweet, post-release, said: “Freedom is a bless that deserves fighting for it.”
Google itself confirmed the release in a tweet, saying: "Huge relief--Wael Ghonim has been released. Our love to him and his family.''
The executive’s detainment fed international cries for freedom of speech in the region, and for the release not only of Ghonim but other imprisoned protesters. Ghonim's release was among the top demands made by opposition leaders who met with newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman over the weekend.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs was asked to comment on Ghonim’s release during a press conference Monday afternoon. He said only that he would have to check with the National Security Council.
Ghonim wasn't done tweeting. Nineteen minutes after his first missive Monday, he credited the secretary-general of the ruling party, Dr. Hossam Badrawy, with helping get him out of detention. But Ghonim added that he had nonetheless asked Badrawy to resign "cause that's the only way I'll respect him.''
The cheekiness is unsurprising for the Dubai-based executive, whose mini-Twitter bio reads: "Constantly Changing, Serious Joker, Internet Addict, Love challenging status quo!''