Germany has released a British-Egyptian Al Jazeera journalist it detained on Saturday at Cairo's request, the Doha based network said on Monday afternoon.
A Berlin court was due to rule on whether it would extradite Ahmed Mansour, a correspondent with Al Jazeera Arabic, who was detained at Tegel airport in the German capital on Saturday while attempting to board a flight. Cairo has accused him of a series of crimes. Today he was released without charge.
Egyptian authorities sentenced Mansour to 15 years in jail last year after convicting him in absentia of torturing a lawyer in Cairo's central Tahrir square during the 2011 protests that removed President Hosni Mubarak from power. Mansour dismissed the charges as "absurd," and Al Jazeera reported last year that Interpol had rejected Egypt's request for an international arrest warrant against him because it did not meet with the global police organization's rules.
Mansour was held in a Berlin court building for two nights and supporters gathered outside demanding his release. In a video statement made after his arrest, the journalist said he hoped that the incident would be resolved quickly. "It is quite ludicrous that a country like Germany would enforce and support such a request made by a dictatorial regime like the one we have in Egypt," he said, according to a BBC translation.
"The crackdown on journalists by Egyptian authorities is well known," Al Jazeera's Acting Director General Mostefa Souag said in a statement. "Our network, as the Arab world's most-watched, has taken the brunt of this. Other countries must not allow themselves to be tools of this media oppression, least of all those that respect freedom of the media as does Germany."
Press freedom groups also criticized Mansour's arrest. "Egypt has launched a politically motivated campaign against Al Jazeera and is now abusing the international system," said Sherif Mansour, Middle East and North Africa program coordinator with the Committee to Protect Journalists. "Egyptian authorities should stop pursuing Ahmed Mansour and his Al Jazeera colleagues. Mansour should be released immediately."
Egypt has repeatedly targeted the Qatar-based channel, seemingly in response to Doha's support for the Muslim Brotherhood of democratically elected former President Mohamed Morsi. Morsi was removed from power by the military in July 2013, and the army-backed administration went to launch a wide-ranging and ongoing crackdown on the brotherhood which killed hundreds and left thousands behind bars. It designated the group as a terrorist organization in December 2013.
Three Al Jazeera journalists — Australian Peter Greste, Canadian Mohamed Fahmy, and Egyptian Baher Mohamed — were arrested in December 2013 then found guilty of multiple charges, including "spreading false news" and collaborating with terrorists, after a farcical trial that was widely criticized by human rights groups. Fahmy and Greste were handed seven-year prison sentences, Mohamed received 10 years. An Egyptian court overturned their convictions on January 1 and ordered a retrial, but they remained in detention. Greste was allowed to leave the country and is being retrialed in absentia.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi made a state visit to Germany earlier this month and held talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel despite criticism of his government's human rights record.
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