Germany plays down prospect of extraditing Al Jazeera journalist

Germany plays down prospect of extraditing Al Jazeera journalist

BERLIN - Reuters
Germany plays down prospect of extraditing Al Jazeera journalist

AP Photo

The German government on June 22 played down the chances of a prominent Al Jazeera journalist held in Berlin since the weekend being extradited to Egypt, citing concerns about the Egyptian legal process.

Ahmed Mansour, one of the pan-Arab television network's best known journalists, was remanded in custody by a German judge after being detained at a Berlin airport on Saturday at Egypt's request. 

A Cairo court sentenced Mansour to 15 years in prison in absentia last year on a charge of torturing a lawyer in 2011 in Tahrir Square, the focus of the uprising that toppled veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Mansour and Al Jazeera deny the charge. 

A foreign ministry spokesman said Germany's justice and foreign ministers would make a final decision on whether Mansour would be extradited and expressed scepticism about Egypt's legal system, citing group sentencings and doubts about due process. 

"All these points will definitely ... be considered in the decision," Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer told a government news conference. An interior ministry spokesman said authorities had received an Interpol request to arrest Mansour. 

Last year an Egyptian court jailed three Al Jazeera journalists on charges that included aiding a terrorist group. One of them, Australian Peter Greste, was released in February after 400 days in prison. 

Mohamed Fahmy, a naturalised Canadian who has given up his Egyptian citizenship, and Egyptian Baher Mohamed were released on bail in February after spending more than a year in custody and are being retried. 

Egypt accuses Al Jazeera of being a mouthpiece of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Qatar-backed Islamist movement that President Sisi removed from power in 2013 when he was army chief and denounces as a terrorist group. 

Mansour's case puts Germany in an awkward position as it tries to strike a balance between business interests and human rights. 

Chancellor Angela Merkel was criticised by opposition parties and rights groups for hosting President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi earlier this month. During that visit, German industrial group Siemens signed an 8 billion euro deal with Egypt to supply it with gas and wind power plants. 

"I don't think one can say this loudly enough: Of course, nobody will be extradited from Germany who risks being sentenced to death abroad," Schaefer said.