Al-Jazeera journalist detained in Berlin has been freed

World Today

Ahmed Mansour This undated handout photo provided courtesy of Al-Jazeera, shows Ahmed Mansour, 52, a prominent journalist with the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera broadcaster’s Arabic service. Mansour was detained at Berlin’s Tegel airport on Saturday, June 20, 2015, on an Egyptian arrest warrant, his lawyers said. (Courtesy of Al-Jazeera, via AP)

The Al-Jazeera journalist who was detained in Berlin on an Egyptian arrest warrant has been released from custody, a spokesman for the Berlin prosecutors’ office said Monday.

Stefan Stoehr said Ahmed Mansour “is free,” but could not immediately provide any more details.

The well-known 52-year-old journalist was detained Saturday on an Egyptian warrant at Berlin’s Tegel airport as he tried to board a Qatar Airways flight to Doha. A dual Egyptian-British citizen, he was convicted in absentia in Egypt on charges that his lawyers and reporters’ groups call politically motivated.

Mansour’s attorney Patrick Teubner said that it was his understanding that there were no strings attached to his client’s release and that there were no further charges or legal matters pending against him in Germany.

“I think that was absolutely the right decision,” Teubner told The Associated Press. “There was no other alternative.”

Dozens of demonstrators gathered outside the justice building before Mansour was released, carrying signs with slogans including “stop the bloodbath in Egypt” and “freedom for Ahmed Mansour.”

A man speaks in front of a court to support the release of the journalist Ahmed Mansour in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, June 21, 2015. Poster at center reads: "Stop the blood flow in Egypt".  (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

A man speaks in front of a court to support the release of the journalist Ahmed Mansour in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, June 21, 2015. Poster at center reads: “Stop the blood flow in Egypt”. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

After news broke of his release, Al-Jazeera General Manager Yasser Abu Hilala spoke to the broadcaster in a studio in Qatar saying “this is a happy day.”

“It is a victory for the freedom of the press in the face of authorities,” he said.

German Justice Ministry spokesman Piotr Malachowski said Mansour had been picked up on the basis of a request from Interpol, which had gone through his ministry and the Foreign Ministry and then was routinely passed along to federal police.

Mansour’s detention is the latest in a long series of legal entanglements between Egypt and satellite news channels. According to court documents, he was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison, alongside two Muslim Brotherhood members and an Islamic preacher, for allegedly torturing a lawyer in Tahrir Square in 2011, a charge both he and the channel rejects.

According to the court verdict, Mansour was accused by witnesses of bringing in journalists to film the tortured lawyer where he was held.

The court ruled that Mansour and the Brotherhood members had been running and operating a detention center in a travel agency office overlooking Tahrir Square, where hundreds of thousands held a sit-in against longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

An Egyptian prosecutor, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk with the press, said the arrest warrant invoked the international convention against torture.

Associated Press