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German public broadcaster touts “danger” to journalists as country holds Al Jazeera reporter

Al Jazeera correspondent Ahmed Mansour, in an undated mugshot provided by the news network. (Photo: Al Jazeera/Handout)
Al Jazeera correspondent Ahmed Mansour, in an undated mugshot provided by the news network. (Photo: Al Jazeera/Handout)

Editor’s note: Since this post was originally published early Monday morning, it has been reported that Al Jazeera correspondent  Ahmed Mansour has been released from detention after being held by the German government over the weekend. The original story follows below:

At the Global Media Forum in Berlin on Monday, the director general of Germany’s external public broadcaster Deutsche Welle spoke on the topic of press freedom, one of several points being discussed at the conference this week.

“For journalists, it’s becoming increasingly dangerous to investigate, report and share their comments — in short, to speak the truth,” Peter Limbourg said in his opening remarks on Monday, noting the case of Saudi Arabia-based blogger Raif Badawi who was recently sentenced over his politically-tinged writings.

Badawi, who is being honored in Berlin this week, is the forum’s way of sending a “clear signal to the world that we fully defend media freedom and security,” Limbough said.

“Badawi is synonymous with everyone being held in custody and suffering for expressing their opinions,” he remarked.

Those comments came at a time when Germany is facing pressure over their detention of one such reporter: Al Jazeera correspondent Ahmed Mansour has been held in a German prison since he was arrested while trying to board a Qatar-bound flight at a Berlin airport last week.

Mansour is being held at the request of the Egyptian government who requested the correspondent be extradited to Cairo. Mansour was sentenced in absentia on charges he and several other men tortured a lawyer in Tahrir Square four years ago, charges that he and Al Jazeera have both denied.

A video depicting the attack on the lawyer show several men identified as supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood kicking the lawyer to the ground. Mansour is not seen in the video, but did interview one person seen in the video for a report that aired on Al Jazeera.

Several advocacy groups have called for Mansour’s release, and the channel has accused Germany of interfering in a politically-tainted international case.

“Egypt has launched a politically-motivated campaign against Al Jazeera and is now abusing the international system,” Sherif Mansour, the Middle East coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, told the Associated Press.

“Mansour is one of the Arab world’s most-respected journalists and must be released immediately,” Mostefa Souag, the acting director general of Al Jazeera network, said in a statement published on the channel’s English-language website. “The crackdown on journalists by Egyptian authorities is well known. Our network…has taken the brunt of this. Other countries must not allow themselves to be tools of this media oppression, east of all those that respect freedom of the media as Germany does.”

One of Mansour’s lawyers said the journalist had been using a British passport at the time he was detained. Mansour holds dual British-Egyptian citizenship. The United Kingdom says it will provide consular services for the reporter during his detention.

A German court will decide whether the 52-year-old Mansour will be extradited to Cairo. If a court finds in favor of Egypt, German lawmakers can still override the extradition proceedings.

The case is the latest in which authorities in Egypt have singled out Al Jazeera journalists over seemingly-unfavorable news coverage. In June 2014, the government sentenced three Al Jazeera journalists to more than a decade in jail; two of those journalists were released and expelled from the country earlier this year.