Concern mounts for missing Google executive

February 5, 2011 1:18:15 AM PST
A Google executive has been named the symbolic spokesman of the youth uprising in Egypt. Wael Ghonim disappeared last Thursday, when he joined the initial protests in Cairo. His family believes he is in the custody of government officials.

On Friday there was calm in Tahrir Square, after two days of violent clashes between supporters and opponents of President Hosni Mubarak. Behind the scenes, the Obama administration is exploring diplomatic channels to speed up Mubarak's departure.

Friday was called "Day of Departure" in hopes Mubarak would step down, but the day ended with him still in power. Protesters on Cairo's streets remain undeterred and the peaceful protesters took back control. Tens of thousands of Egyptians gathered in Liberation Square to pray and President Barack Obama urged Egyptians to maintain the peace.

"The issues at stake in Egypt will not be resolved through violence and suppression and we are encouraged by the restraint that was shown today," said Obama.

Yet despite the calmer atmosphere, concern is mounting for Google executive Ghonim. The 30-year-old is Google's head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa. Ghonim took part in the protests from the very beginning, but hasn't been seen or heard from since January 27th. He is believed to be in the custody of the Egyptian government.

Former Google employee Greg Coladonato of Mountain View worked with Ghonim two years ago.

"I don't have a very high opinion of the sort of human rights standards they have over there and so that makes me sort of worried," says Coladonato.

The leading opposition group has since named Ghonim its symbolic spokesperson in hopes it will pressure the Egyptian government to release him. According to Al Jazeera, Ghonim's family has received threatening phone calls from his captors telling them Ghonim is being taught a lesson.

"It's really saddening to see him end up in this sort of situation when you know his heart's in the right place and you know that he was working for the betterment of his people," says Coladonato.

Meanwhile, back on the streets of Cairo, protesters have vowed to continue their rallies until Mubarak is gone. Nobel Peace laureate and opposition leader Mohamed Elbaradei made a plea.

"He should hear the sound, the clear voice coming from the people and leave in dignity," said Elbaradei.

Several ideas are being discussed on how to transition from 30 years of Mubarak. The U.S. has been talking with top Egyptian officials on the formation of a military-backed caretaker government until Egypt's election is in September.