Al-Jazeera reporter still held in Berlin on Egypt warrant

Al-Jazeera reporter still held in Berlin on Egypt warrant
Supporters of ousted Egyptian Islamist president Mohamed Morsi stage a demonstration to ask for the release of detained Al-Jazeera journalist Ahmed Mansour in front of the local court of Berlin's Tiergarten district, where Mansour is being held in custody.
PHOTO: AFP

BERLIN - Al-Jazeera journalist Ahmed Mansour was being held in Berlin police custody Sunday awaiting a judge's decision on his further detention on an international arrest warrant issued by his native Egypt, authorities said.

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

"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, who also has British citizenship, is to appear before a judge, who is to decide as early as Sunday whether to hold him in detention and launch extradition procedures or release him, Berlin authorities said.

Al-Jazeera said on its website that an Egyptian court had sentenced Mansour in absentia in 2014 to 15 years in prison, for "torturing a lawyer in 2011 on Tahrir Square" in Cairo, epicentre of an anti-regime uprising that brought down former president Hosni Mubarak.

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

Mansour tweeted angrily in detention on Saturday: "The question now is how have the German government and Interpol become tools in the hands of a bloodthirsty regime in Egypt that came to power through a coup, and is led by the terrorist (President) Abdel Fattah al-Sisi."

The 52-year-old journalist also told Al-Jazeera he was facing rape and robbery charges.

Mansour, who hosts a popular news programme, recently interviewed Abu Mohamed al-Jolani, the chief of Al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate, Al-Nusra Front.

While in Berlin, he interviewed an expert on Islamist militants from a prominent German think-tank.

Egypt's Sisi visited Germany on June 3, as prominent rights groups urged Chancellor Angela Merkel to press him to end "the gravest human rights crisis in Egypt in decades."

Merkel in a joint press conference with Sisi voiced criticism of Egypt's use of the death penalty and record on religious freedom, but pledged closer economic ties with its partner in the fight against Islamic extremism.

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