German authorities should investigate the detention of Al Jazeera journalist Ahmed Mansour at Berlin’s Tegel Airport, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a Wednesday statement.
The well-known British-Egyptian presenter was detained at Tegel Airport on Saturday afternoon, apparently in relation to a legal case in Egypt for which he received a 15-year prison sentence in 2014. In the case, he was accused of the torture and electrocution of a lawyer in Tahrir Square during the 25 January Revolution, charges he denies.
According to a German government spokesperson, the Foreign Ministry and the Federal Justice Office approved an Egyptian request to detain Mansour with a possibility of extraditing him, HRW reported. But HRW has questioned why this request was approved when Mansour would face “serious due process violations if extradited to Egypt”. It noted that Interpol had previously rejected Egypt’s request to issue a “red notice” for the journalist’s arrest.
“German authorities should have been clear from the start that Ahmed Mansour risks serious violations of his human rights if he is sent to Egypt,” said Wenzel Michalski, Germany director of HRW. “Members of parliament should press the government to investigate the case and make sure that proper safeguards are in place to make sure that nothing like this happens again.”
Mansour’s detention provoked outrage from German civil society and the political opposition, and protests in solidarity were held Sunday outside the prison where Mansour was held, reportedly with around 100 in attendance.
During Mansour’s detention, a German Foreign Ministry spokesman told a press conference that no person would be extradited if they could face the death penalty at their destination country, casting confusion over why his initial detention was approved.
HRW says they have documented numerous serious due process violations in Egypt’s criminal justice system since 2013. These include “mass trials in which prosecutors and judges rely wholly on the evidence of national security agents and make no effort to assess individual culpability, flouting both Egyptian and international law”.
“Human Rights Watch has also worked on documenting the dangerously overcrowded conditions in Egyptian detention facilities that have arisen since the authorities conducted a mass arrest campaign following [former president Mohamed] Morsi’s removal. According to credible counts by Egyptian rights organisations at least 124 people have died in detention since 2013,” the statement read.
“Germany should make crystal clear that human rights must not be trumped by other interests with the Egyptian government,” Michalski said. “A proper investigation into the arrest of Ahmed Mansour is an important step toward more transparency.”