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Jazeera’s Mansour blames Berlin detention on Egyptian pressure

June 23, 2015

Egyptian-born Al-Jazeera journalist Ahmed Mansour on Tuesday blamed his controversial two-day detention in Germany at Cairo’s request on pressure that the “tyrannical regime” had placed on Berlin.

German authorities on Monday released Mansour, 52, having detained the prominent Arab TV journalist on Saturday at a Berlin airport in a move that baffled and angered rights and media groups.

The German foreign ministry on Tuesday blamed a mishap, saying officials were not initially aware Mansour was a journalist or that there was a “political background”, while Mansour suggested Berlin willingly acted on Cairo’s behalf.

“I am sorry that (the Egyptian government) succeeded in using some people in the German government for its purposes,” the Egyptian-British dual national charged during a press conference, according to the German translation.

Mansour pointed out that he was detained weeks after German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosted Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on June 3.

“I fear that the Sisi regime — the dictatorial regime, the tyrannical regime — was successful in perhaps exporting … their dictatorship to Germany,” said Mansour, challenging local journalists to dig out the truth.

Media and lawmakers have debated how Germany came to first detain Mansour and then release him, with prosecutors citing “legal aspects and possible political-diplomatic concerns” behind the decision to free him.

A foreign ministry spokesman stressed Monday that Berlin had repeatedly criticised Cairo’s human rights record, including mass arrests and executions, and that Berlin never extradites people if they could face the death penalty.

Egypt last year sentenced Mansour in absentia to 15 years in prison on torture and other charges which he has rejected as “absurd”.

According to Germany’s interior ministry, the drama started when Cairo on October 2 last year requested Interpol send out a “red notice” to member states asking for Mansour’s arrest.

However, Interpol on October 20 informed members that it saw the arrest warrant as politically motivated, breaching its rules against interventions “of a political, military, religious or racial character”.

The question Mansour’s lawyers, German newspapers and lawmakers are now asking is why Germany kept the arrest warrant live in its system — a step that required the consent of both the justice and foreign ministries.

A German foreign ministry source told AFP that Egypt’s initial requests had given no clues about Mansour’s “activity as a well-known journalist nor an obvious political background”.

“It was only after the arrest of Ahmed Mansour that the Egyptian side at the weekend submitted a preliminary extradition request with further information to the government,” the source said.

“An examination of these documents quickly made clear that an extradition of Ahmed Mansour to Egypt would be completely ruled out.”

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