Al Jazeera journalist says surprised by arrest in Germany

Ahmed Mansour, a leading talk show host on the channel’s Arabic service, was sentenced by Cairo court to 15 years in prison in absentia on the charge of torturing a lawyer in 2011 in Tahrir Square.

By (Reuters)

Published: Sun 21 Jun 2015, 7:56 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 3:07 PM

People attend a protest rally in front of a court to support the release of the journalist Ahmed Mansour in Berlin. -AP

Cairo - A high-profile Al Jazeera journalist arrested in Germany at the weekend at the request of Egypt has said he was surprised by the move and expects to face a judge soon.

Ahmed Mansour, a leading talk show host on the channel’s Arabic service, told Al Jazeera by telephone: “The German authorities told me that we are dealing with an international criminal case” and a judge would decide whether he should be extradited to Egypt.

Cairo’s criminal court sentenced Mansour, who has dual Egyptian and British citizenship, to 15 years in prison in absentia last year on the charge of torturing a lawyer in 2011 in Tahrir Square, the focus of the popular uprising that toppled veteran leader Hosni Mubarak.

Jazeera said at the time the charge was false and an attempt to silence Mansour, known to viewers across the Arab world.

Lawyer Saad Djebbar said Mansour was arrested unexpectedly on Saturday as he tried to board a Qatar Airways flight to Doha.

A spokesman for the German Federal Police said a 52-year-old man was arrested at Berlin’s Tegel airport following an international arrest warrant from the Egyptian authorities.

“This is a very serious development,” Djebbar said. “We knew that the Egyptians were going to set such a trap to harass our journalists and that is what has happened.”

Egyptian authorities accuse Al Jazeera of being a mouthpiece of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Qatar-backed movement which President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi toppled in 2013 when he was army chief. The channel rejects the allegations.

Egypt accuses the Brotherhood of being a terrorist organisation, allegations the movement denies.

“We are coordinating with the prosecutor general, the Justice Ministry and the German authorities,” Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty said.

“He is accused of a crime and was sentenced so of course we have called for him to be returned.”

In February this year, Egypt released Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste after 400 days in prison on charges that included aiding a terrorist group.

Mohamed Fahmy, a naturalised Canadian who has given up his Egyptian citizenship, and Egyptian Baher Mohamed were released on bail in February after spending more than a year in custody.

The journalists were originally sentenced to between seven and 10 years in prison on charges including spreading lies to help a terrorist organisation, which they have denied.

Egypt’s high court ordered a retrial in January.

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