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Germany ‘far’ from decision to extradite Al-Jazeera journalist to Egypt

June 22, 2015

Germany said on Monday it was “far” from a decision on extraditing a detained Al-Jazeera journalist to his native Egypt, voicing concern about the rule of law and human rights there.

Ahmed Mansour, 52, was arrested Saturday at a Berlin airport having been accused by Cairo of committing a series of crimes, in a case that prompted angry questions about press freedom and German relations with Egypt.

The Egyptian-British dual national was sentenced last year by an Egyptian court in absentia to 15 years in prison on torture and other charges which he has rejected as “absurd”.

Protesters Monday rallied outside the Berlin detention centre where Mansour was being held, calling for his release, while journalists demanded answers from the German government at a press conference.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said that the case was currently in the hands of the Berlin justice system, which had arrested Mansour based on a warrant issued last October.

But Schaefer also stressed that since then Berlin had repeatedly voiced concern about the rule of law in Egypt under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, amid mass arrests of his political opponents.

“The government has repeatedly asked questions about the rule of law in Egyptian criminal proceedings and has repeatedly asked the Egyptian government to respect human rights and freedom of expression,” he said.

“Against this background, you will surely understand that there are doubts in the Mansour case,” Schaefer said, stressing that for now “we are far, far away” from deciding on an extradition.

He added, on Egypt’s general use of capital punishment, that “of course no one is extradited by Germany if he is in danger of facing the death penalty”.

Schaefer also said that the German government, not just a court, would have to approve an extradition.

A spokesman for the state prosecution service, Martin Steltner, told AFP that Mansour “was arrested on the basis of a national Egyptian arrest warrant”.

On Sunday a court had issued a “detention order” while his personal details were being checked, and “now the prosecution service must decided whether it requests extradition proceedings”, he said.

An Egyptian court 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.

The journalist has told Al-Jazeera he rejected the “absurd” accusations, adding that he was facing rape, kidnapping and robbery charges — accusations which he also denied.

Ties between Doha, where Al-Jazeera is based, 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 Peter Greste and Canada’s Mohamed Fahmy, were arrested in Cairo in 2013 and sentenced to up to 10 years in prison on charges of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. Greste has since been deported while the other two are facing a retrial.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.