CAIRO — A reporter for Al-Jazeera English was released from an Egyptian prison and deported Sunday after more than a year behind bars, but his two Egyptian colleagues remained jailed in a case widely condemned as a sham by human-rights groups.

Australian Peter Greste was whisked away on a flight to Cyprus. His release came as a welcome surprise to fellow reporters and activists who spent months pressing for his freedom.

But rights groups and Greste’s Qatar-based broadcaster called on Egypt to release the other two defendants in the case, which has hindered the country’s international standing as it struggles to recover from the political unrest and economic collapse caused by the 2011 uprising.

Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohammed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohammed were arrested in December 2013 over their coverage of the violent crackdown on Islamist protests following the military overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi.

Egyptian authorities accused them of providing a platform for Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, now declared a terrorist organization. But authorities provided no concrete evidence. The journalists and their supporters insist they were doing their jobs during a time of violent upheaval.

The three were widely seen as having been caught up in a regional power struggle between Egypt and Qatar, which funds Al-Jazeera and had been a strong backer of Morsi. Greste’s release follows a thawing of ties between Cairo and Doha.

RELIEVED, BUT WORRIED

Greste was in a state of disbelief about his freedom and deeply relieved – but still worried about his imprisoned friends, said his brother, Andrew Greste.

“His excitement is tempered and restrained and will be until those guys are free,” Andrew Greste said at the news conference in Brisbane. “He won’t give up until Baher and Mohammed are out of there.”

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who had been negotiating for Greste’s release, said Monday that the 49-year-old journalist had told her by telephone from Egypt that he was desperate to return to his family in the Australian city of Brisbane after spending 400 days in custody.

“He was immensely relieved and he was desperate to come home to Australia and reunite with his family,” Bishop told reporters in Sydney. “From my discussion with him, he was very keen to be back on a beach and lying in the sun in Australia,” she said.

Greste had been given short notice that he was being released “unconditionally,” Bishop said.

“We moved as fast as we could to make arrangements for his immediate departure,” she said.

Australian Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull credited the international pressure on Egypt as well as the personal lobbying of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

“It was a political decision to imprison him in the first place and a political decision to release him,” Turnbull told reporters in Sydney.

“Clearly a lot of international influence and persuasion has been brought to bear, not just the Australian government,” he added.

RELEASE FOLLOWS PRESIDENTIAL APPROVAL

An Egyptian prison official and the nation’s official news agency said Greste was released following a presidential “approval.” The official and an Interior Ministry statement said he was released under a new deportation law passed last year. The law appeared to have been tailored to the Al-Jazeera case.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. There was no word on the fate of the other two defendants.

Acting Al-Jazeera Director General Mostefa Souag said the Qatar-based network “will not rest until Baher and Mohamed also regain their freedom.”

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, welcomed the news of Greste’s release but said “nothing can make up for his ordeal” and called for the others to be released.

Canada also welcomed the “positive developments,” saying it was hopeful that Fahmy’s case would be “resolved shortly,” according to a statement from the office of the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Consular.

The three were convicted on terrorism charges and for spreading false information, faking reports to show that the country was on the verge of civil war and aiding the Brotherhood’s goal of portraying Egypt as a failed state.and Egyptians?”