Berlin detains scribe wanted by Cairo

Protesters calling for the release of journalist Ahmed Mansour in Berlin's Tiergarten district, where he is being held.
Protesters calling for the release of journalist Ahmed Mansour in Berlin's Tiergarten district, where he is being held.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BERLIN - A renowned Al-Jazeera journalist was being held in German police custody yesterday pending a court decision on his further detention on an arrest warrant issued by his native Egypt.

In a case that raised issues about press freedom and German relations with Egypt under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, 52-year-old reporter Ahmed Mansour was arrested on Saturday at a Berlin airport, having been accused by Cairo of committing "several crimes".

Mr Mansour, who also has British citizenship, is to appear before a judge, who is to decide whether to keep him in detention and launch extradition procedures or release him, the Berlin authorities said.

Al-Jazeera said on its website that an Egyptian court had sentenced Mr Mansour in absentia last year to 15 years in prison, for "torturing a lawyer in 2011 on Tahrir Square" in Cairo, epicentre of an anti-regime uprising.

"Mansour has rejected these absurd accusations," the network said.

The journalist also told Al-Jazeera he was facing rape, kidnapping and robbery charges - charges which he denied.

Ties between Doha and Cairo have been extremely strained over Qatar's backing for the former, short-lived Egyptian government under the Muslim Brotherhood.

Three Al-Jazeera journalists, including Australia's Mr Peter Greste and Canada's Mr Mohamed Fahmy, were arrested in Cairo in 2013 and sentenced to up to 10 years in prison on charges of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mr Greste has since been deported while the other two are facing a retrial.

In a video aired by the Doha- based pan-Arab satellite channel yesterday, Mr Mansour said the charges against him were "false".

About 50 protesters gathered outside the jail in central Berlin where Mr Mansour was being held demanding his release.

German opposition politicians also sharply criticised the arrest.

"Berlin justice authorities must under no circumstances allow themselves to become the agents of Cairo's capricious regime," said Greens party deputy Franziska Brantner. "Germany must not extradite him."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2015, with the headline 'Berlin detains scribe wanted by Cairo'. Print Edition | Subscribe