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The Mideast

Google Executive Hailed as a Hero by Protesters in Egypt

Google Inc. executive Wael Ghonim, released from detention by Egyptian state security Monday night, became the face of the country’s online youth movement after he conceded to creating a Facebook group that helped amass thousands of people for the antigovernment protests rocking Egypt in their third week.

In a moving interview broadcast on Egypt’s Dream TV, Mr. Ghonim sat on the set of host Mona El Shazly’s evening program just hours after being taken home from detention by the ruling National Democratic Party’s Secretary General Hossam Badrawi. Ms. El Shazly had interviewed Mr. Ghonim on her program by telephone, on the government’s crackdown on the Internet, the night before Mr. Ghonim went missing. (Story continues after video links.)

Click here to watch part 1 of the interview.

Click here to watch part 2 of the interview.

Click here to watch part 3 of the interview.

The interview made its way quickly onto YouTube, as volunteer translators gathered on Twitter to render his comments in English throughout the night and posting a full version with English subtitles: http://egypt.alive.in/. Online, it has become the new rallying point to keep the protests alive. Mr. Ghonim couldn’t be reached to comment.

Mr. Ghonim said he created a Facebook page for Khalid Said, the 28-year-old Egyptian man who died after allegedly being beaten by police. The page, whose administrators weren’t known to the public, became a rallying point for the January 25 protests.

“I didn’t want anyone to know I was the admin,” Mr. Ghonim said, breaking into tears. Others, he said, risked far more than he did.

The revelation—a tightly kept secret even among Egypt’s blogging and online community—drew rapid-fire responses of support on Twitter, where friends of Mr. Ghonim had gotten their first confirmation of his release from detention Monday with his single-line tweet: “Freedom is a bless that deserves fighting for it.”

Egyptian columnist Mona Eltahawy tweeted: “Those worried that #Egypt revolution was beginning to sag, Wael @Ghonim intvu gave it shot of adrenaline in the heart. Yalla [Go], Egypt!”
Another tweeter said Mr. Ghonim “represents what a new #Egypt should be. He represents the Egypt we long for and will work tirelessly to have.” And as Mr. Ghonim gained almost celebrity-like status online, another asked fellow tweeters if they agreed Mr. Ghonim looked like “an #Egyptian Orlando Bloom?”

Mr. Ghonim said early in the interview that he didn’t want to take on that role.
“I’m not a hero,” he said. “The heroes are the ones who protested, who are the ones who sacrificed their lives, who were beaten,” he said. “I was just there writing on the keyboard.”

Click here for more on this story from The Wall Street Journal.