Berlin releases detained Al-Jazeera journalist

Ahmed Mansour’s detention related to allegations of torture during Egyptian uprising

 Egyptian journalist Ahmed Mansour speaks as he leaves a prison in Berlin. He spent two nights in custody. Photograph: Rainer Jensen/EPA

Egyptian journalist Ahmed Mansour speaks as he leaves a prison in Berlin. He spent two nights in custody. Photograph: Rainer Jensen/EPA

 

Germany has released an Al-Jazeera journalist arrested by Berlin police on Saturday on foot of a request from Egypt.

The arrest of Mr Ahmed Mansour, a 52-year-old host for Al-Jazeera’s Arabic service, prompted an outcry from the broadcaster and journalists’ organisations around the world.

Mr Mansour spent two nights in custody after he was detained before boarding a flight on Saturday at Berlin’s Tegel airport to Qatar, where the news organisation is based.

His detention is believed to have been related to a 15-year sentence handed down by a Cairo court in absentia to Mr Mansour.

According to Al-Jazeera, the sentence is linked to allegations of torture of a lawyer in Tahrir Square during the 2011 Egyptian uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak. Mr Mansour, who has dual British and Egyptian citizenship has rejected the charges.

Two hours after his release was announced, Mr Mansour emerged from the court and prison complex where he was held in Berlin, as supporters chanted “down with military rule”.

“I am free now despite el-Sisi,” said Mr Mansour, referring to Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi. “I thank all the free people in the world.”

State prosecutors in Berlin said they had decided to release Mr Mansour after examining the Egyptian case and taking into account “political and diplomatic concerns”.

“After the evaluation, the concerns over agreeing to extradition couldn’t be dispelled despite assurances from Egypt,” said Martin Steltner, Berlin state prosecutor spokesman, in a statement.

No strings attached

Mr Mansour’s attorney Patrick Teubner told Associated Press there were no strings attached to his client’s release, nor were any other legal matters pending relating to the charges.

“I think that was absolutely the right decision, there was no other alternative,” he said.

When news of their colleague’s release reached Al-Jazeera, general manager Yasser Abu Hilala said it was a “happy day.”

“It is a victory for the freedom of the press in the face of authorities,” he said.

The weekend arrest prompted a critical response from Michael Konken, the head of Germany’s DJV journalists’ union who said the case against Mr Mansour was of “questionable” legitimacy.

Mr Mansour’s arrest and pressure for his release put Germany in an awkward position as it tries to express concern for the human rights situation in Egypt without alienating a partner in the battle against Islamic extremism.

Ahead of the release Martin Schäfer, foreign ministry spokesman, said: “Of course, nobody will be extradited from Germany who risks being sentenced to death abroad.”

Since Mr el-Sisi took power in 2013 and won a presidential election last year Egyptian courts have issued scores of death sentences against Muslim Brotherhood members, including the group’s leadership.

Mr Mansour’s arrest came weeks after a charged official visit by the Egyptian president to Berlin. At a heated press conference, German chancellor Angela Merkel expressed concern about Egypt’s human rights record, prompting heated replies from Mr el-Sisi and angry chants by Egyptian journalists present.