Al-Jazeera journalist detained in Germany on Egyptian arrest warrant


A man holds a protest poster to support the release of the journalist Ahmed Mansour in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, June 21, 2015. (AP/Michael Sohn)
A man holds a protest poster to support the release of the journalist Ahmed Mansour in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, June 21, 2015. (AP/Michael Sohn)
A prominent Al-Jazeera journalist spent the night in German custody while prosecutors considered whether to extradite him to Egypt or set him free. Dozens of supporters protested Sunday in front of the Berlin court building where he was being held, demanding his release.

Ahmed Mansour, 52, a well-known journalist with the Qatar-based broadcaster’s Arabic service, was detained at Berlin’s Tegel airport on Saturday on an Egyptian arrest warrant, his lawyers said. Mansour, who holds dual Egyptian-British nationality, was trying to board a Qatar Airways flight to Doha, the station reported.

His lawyer called Sunday for Mansour’s immediate release, saying Germany was getting involved in a politically tainted case.

Mansour’s detention is the latest in a long series of legal entanglements between Egypt and its satellite news channels. The station said he had been sentenced in absentia in Egypt to 15 years in prison over allegedly torturing an unnamed lawyer in Tahrir Square in 2011, a charge both he and the channel rejected.

“Mansour is accused (in the warrant) of having harmed the reputation of Egypt massively,” and of having committed torture, said lawyer Fazli Altin. “It’s unacceptable for the freedom of press and embarrassing for Germany that Mansour is being held here on these clearly political allegations.”

A second lawyer, Patrick Teubner, said the arrest warrant would be read out to Mansour later Sunday.

“This case has clearly taken on a political dimension and there are currently lots of background talks and various consulates are also involved,” Teubner said, adding that Mansour had been travelling on his British passport when he was detained.

A U.K. spokesman said British authorities were providing consular assistance.

Both of the journalist’s lawyers expressed surprise that Mansour had been detained at all. They said they thought Interpol had put out a note on Mansour, which would show up at passport controls, that Interpol had not officially asked for the arrest of Mansour.

“According to our knowledge, Interpol refused to initiate an international arrest warrant on Mansour, so it’s not really clear why he was detained at all,” said Altin.

The German prosecutor’s office could not immediately be reached for clarification on the issue and the German border patrol refused to say on what specific allegations Mansour had been detained.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdelattie, however, told The Associated Press that Germany arrested Mansour based on the red flag put for him by the Interpol. He said Egyptian judicial authorities, including the chief prosecutor in Cairo, were speaking with German authorities to clarify what crimes he is wanted for.

Asked about the lack of an extradition treaty between the two countries, Abdelattie said it’s not needed if the German government decides to send him to Cairo.

Germany’s justice ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.

Martin Steltner, a spokesman for the Berlin prosecutor’s office, said prosecutors would hold several meetings Sunday and “of course there can be at any time also a decision to set him free again.” He added, however, it would be very unlikely to have a decision on a possible extradition of Mansour on Sunday.

A post on Mansour’s Facebook page called for a “Freedom for Mansour Ahmed” protest outside the Berlin courthouse. A video of Mansour was also posted to Facebook after he was questioned in which he lashes out at German authorities for detaining him.

“Regrettably, they told me that the request to arrest me is a German request and it is not based on Interpol,” he said, accusing Germany of being complicit with President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s government in Egypt.

It wasn’t immediately clear who was posting to Mansour’s Facebook account, or who made the video.

Mansour, who is known for his “Without Borders” program, recently conducted an interview with the head of the Nusra Front, the al-Qaida branch fighting in Syria’s civil war, which aired last month from an undisclosed location in Syria. German media reported that Mansour was in Germany for an interview he conducted here for his show.

About 80 protesters gathered outside the Berlin courthouse Sunday, holding up his picture and shouting “Free Mansour!”

“We don’t understand why Mansour was detained in Berlin,” said Ali Alawady, a member of the German-Egyptian Union for Democracy who helped organize the protest. “He is an innocent journalist who is unrightfully persecuted in Egypt.”