Senior Al Jazeera journalist Ahmed Mansour has been released by German authorities, avoiding a possible extradition to Egypt, according to his employer news network.
The well-known presenter was detained at Berlin’s Tegel Airport Saturday afternoon apparently in relation to a legal case in Egypt for which he received a 15-year prison sentence in 2014. In the case, he stood trial for the alleged torture and electrocution of a lawyer in Tahrir Square during the 25 January Revolution. Both Mansour and the Qatari media network deny the charges.
In a series of tweets on Monday afternoon, Al Jazeera announced had been released and was meeting with his lawyer.
Egyptian Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat had reportedly called on both Interpol and the German authorities to facilitate Mansour’s extradition to Egypt.
In comments reported by Anadolu Agency, Fazli Altin, a member of Mansour’s legal defence team, said that despite a German ruling Sunday that the detention was legal, the case looked optimistic. Atlin said he expected Mansour’s release at some point on Monday, following an investigation.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman told a press conference on Monday that no person is to be extradited from Germany if they could face the death penalty at their destination country. “I don’t think one can say this loudly enough: of course, nobody will be extradited from Germany who risks being sentenced to death abroad,” Martin Schaefer said.
Mansour’s detention has provoked outrage from German civil society and the political opposition.
Michael Konken, President of the German Federation of Journalists, called for Mansour’s release and said: “I am upset because we don’t know how countries like Egypt arrive at the kind of charges Mr Mansour is facing. We don’t know whether these charges are motivated by the fact that he reported critically about the government – a government that then came up with charges and accusations to silence this journalist.”
“In a situation like this, a journalist who finds himself in Germany must be protected and must not be extradited to a country which both has the death penalty in its statutes and enforces it as well,” Konken said.
In comments reported by local press, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Western countries, saying: “European states, which leave Turkey alone in fighting terrorism and condone terrorist organisation members, unfortunately behaves very differently over a request by coup stagers…Why? Because Egyptian generals ordered so. Why? Egypt gave an €8.5bn order.”
Mansour’s arrest came two weeks after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi was received by Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany. During the trip, Al-Sisi signed off a €10bn deal with engineering giant Siemens to build gas and wind power plants in Egypt.
Protests in solidarity were held Sunday outside the prison where Mansour is held, reported to have around 100 in attendance.
Al Jazeera, which is Qatar’s main media outlet, fell out with the Egyptian government after the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, due to the network’s coverage of the 30 June events. Qatar, Al Jazeera, and Egypt have since had numerous diplomatic fallouts, with Al-Sisi’s regime accusing Doha of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood organisation.
Three Al Jazeera English journalists spent over a year in an Egyptian prison on charges of aiding a banned group after the ejection of the Brotherhood government. In February, Australian Peter Greste was deported, but two of his colleagues, Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy, still face retrial.