German police arrest Al Jazeera journalist on Egypt's request
German police on Saturday arrested one of the most senior Al Jazeera journalists, Ahmed Mansour, at Berlin airport at the request of the Egyptian authorities.
"He is in police custody," a spokesman for the Berlin public prosecutor's office, Martin Steltner, told AFP Sunday.
"The Berlin prosecutor's office is examining the legal assistance request" from Egypt, he added.
Mansour was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison by a criminal court in Cairo in 2014 on charges of rape, theft and torturing a lawyer in Tahrir Square in 2011. Mansour, who was reporting from Tahrir Square, described the charges as absurd. Al Jazeera said the charge was a flimsy attempt at character assassination against one of its leading journalists.
Mansour, who has dual Egyptian and British citizenship, was arrested at Berlin’s Tegel Airport on Saturday as he was boarding a Qatar Airways flight to Doha, where he now lives. Mansour will remain in German custody until Monday when he will go before a court, which will rule on whether he should continue to be detained.
In October last year, Interpol rejected an Egyptian request for an international warrant against Mansour. They said the request “did not meet Interpol’s rules”.
Mansour told Al Jazeera by phone that he had "informed [the police] that the global police organisation has rejected Egypt's request and that I have this document from Interpol to prove that I am not wanted on any charge”.
"It is quite ludicrous that a country like Germany would enforce and support such a request made by a dictatorial regime like the one we have in Egypt. Interpol itself cleared my name with this document that I have in my hands."
Mansour’s detention has caused outrage, coming a week after the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was received by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel on a state visit.
Saad Djebbar, a lawyer for Al Jazeera, told Reuters that Mansour had been abruptly and unexpectedly arrested in Germany.
"This is a very serious development," said Djebbar. "We knew that the Egyptians were going to set such a trap to harass our journalists and that is what has happened.”
He went on to call the arrest politically-motivated. "This is a ploy to terrorise Al Jazeera journalists and paralyse Al Jazeera from doing its work," he said.
Acting Director General of Al Jazeera network Mostefa Souag also lashed out at the arrest: "The crackdown on journalists by Egyptian authorities is well known. Our network, as the Arab world's most-watched, has taken the brunt of this. Other countries must not allow themselves to be tools of this media oppression, least of all those that respect freedom of the media as does Germany."
"Ahmed Mansour is one of the Arab world's most respected journalists and must be released immediately."
Mansour himself wrote on his Facebook page that Germany had become a tool of "terrorists" like Sisi. Egypt has accused Al Jazeera of unbalanced reporting. In December 2013, three of its journalists were arrested and accused of colluding with the banned Muslim Brotherhood. Australian Peter Greste was eventually freed in February, while his two Egyptian colleagues Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Baher Mohammad are awaiting a retrial.