Egypt Protests: Wael Ghonim, Google Manager and Activist, Released By Government

Photo: Google Marketing Manager Wael Ghonim
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A Google executive believed to be a key person in rallying demonstrations that have nearly toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, was released today after nearly two weeks in detention, as signs of normalcy began to emerge in Cairo's streets.

Wael Ghonim, a marketing manager at Google, was freed today by the Egyptian government.

"First of all I send my condolences to all the people who were killed. It was a peaceful revolution. We didn't want to do any damage," Ghonim said in an interview with an Egyptian network. "Don't focus your cameras on me. I'm not a hero. The real heroes are the youth who are behind this revolution. By God's will, we're going to clean this country of this rubbish."

In a statement, a Google spokesperson said Ghonim's release is a "huge relief."

"It is a huge relief that Wael Ghonim has been released. We send our best wishes to him and his family," it stated.

The longtime activist, who organized protests through social media, was captured by security forces on Jan. 28. He had been active in coordinating the online presence of Muhammed ElBaradei, a Nobel Laureate who has emerged as a key opposition leader.

In one of his last tweets on Jan. 27, Ghonim expressed his strong passion against the current regime. "Pray for #Egypt. Very worried as it seems that government is planning a war crime tomorrow against people. We are all ready to die," he wrote.

Google wouldn't comment on whether Ghonim's activities violated company policies, only saying that it doesn't comment on employee's personal beliefs and activities.

Thousands of protesters remain camped out in Tahrir Square, the heart of Egypt's uprising. They say they are not satisfied that opposition leaders who met with government officials Sunday speak for them and many are still demanding the immediate ouster of Mubarak.

President Obama today said Egypt is "making progress" but was mostly tight-lipped about the situation in the turbulent country.

"Obviously Egypt has to negotiate a path and I think they are making progress," Obama told reporters today.

Below the scene of calm, concerns about the country's political and social future remain. The real reason why many may not be leaving Tahrir Square is that they fear retribution from the country's secret police and military intelligence, who they suspect are watching and filming the square.

People fear that if they leave the square, they could be picked-up at home. Ironically, the place that was the most dangerous in the city just a few days ago for protesters may now be the safest.

Dissenters who were taken into custody in recent days have emerged to describe scary details. Al Jazeera English correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin, who was detained for a day, told ABC News that he was bound, blindfolded and threatened. While he was in custody, he heard people being tortured in neighboring rooms.

"People who were sitting next to us who were in the crowd -- not journalists -- they were slapped, they were kicked, they were beaten," Mohyeldin said. "I saw them use a great deal of violence against the people who were there."

New York Times reporter Nick Kulish, who was also detained, told ABC News that he also heard people being tortured in neighboring rooms while he was in jail.

"We spoke to hundreds of people and they all said the same thing, which was you know, that police abuse, violence by the police was one of the things that they were fighting against," Kulish said.

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