Al Jazeera demands release of journalist held by Germany on an Egyptian arrest warrant weeks after Cairo signs £5.7bn deal

Ahmed Mansour - who is accused of several crimes, including torturing a lawyer in Tahrir Square in 2011 - said he hoped his arrest was a misunderstanding

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The Arabic news channel has Al Jazeera demanded that Germany immediately release one of its senior journalists, mysteriously held in Berlin since Saturday on what police said was an Egyptian arrest warrant.

Ahmed Mansour, 52, a well-known broadcaster for the Qatar-based television channel, holds dual Egyptian and British citizenship. Officials said he was travelling on his UK passport when he was arrested at Berlin’s Tegel airport while trying to board a Qatar Airways flight to Doha.

German police said that Mr Mansour was arrested on an Egyptian-issued warrant that accused him of several crimes, including torturing a lawyer in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in 2011. They said a judge would decide on Monday whether to release him.

“I am still under arrest at Berlin airport, waiting to be taken before an investigating judge,” Mr Mansour tweeted on Saturday night

Al Jazeera has described the charges, for which the journalist was sentenced to 15 years in absentia last year, as “absurd and false”. Mr Mansour’s lawyer, Fazli Altin said it was “embarrassing for Germany that he is being held on these clearly political allegations”.

Scores of Mr Mansour’s supporters held protests outside the Berlin courthouse where he is in custody. Reporters Without Borders said his arrest was part of “Egypt’s terrible revenge against journalists that cross the regime”.

In a video posted on Facebook, Mr Mansour accused Chancellor Angela Merkel of being complicit with the hardline government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Since coming to power following the toppling of Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi, President Sisi has been criticised for suppressing opposition voices. He made a controversial visit to Berlin earlier this month, when he met Ms Merkel and the German President Joachim Gauck. The visit drew protests and was boycotted by Germany’s parliamentary president.

During the visit President Sisi signed an €8bn (£5.7bn) energy-infrastructure deal with the German industrial giant Siemens.

“It is quite ludicrous that a country like Germany would enforce and support such a request made by a dictatorial regime,” Mr Mansour said. He hoped his arrest was a misunderstanding, he added.

Mr Altin took issue with Germany’s claim that the Egyptian arrest warrant was valid internationally and said that Interpol had refused to grant Egypt such a warrant for Mr Mansour.

Neither the German government nor the prosecutor’s office were available to clear up the confusion. Reports from Cairo said Egyptian authorities were in touch with their German counterparts to clarify the accusations against Mr Mansour.

Egypt was heavily criticised after its courts sentenced three Al Jazeera journalists to seven years in prison last year on what the defendants said were sham charges motivated by its political rift with Qatar.