(AA) – Egyptian TV presenter and Al Jazeera Arabic interviewer Ahmed Mansour, who has been sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison by Cairo’s criminal court, has denied allegations he detained and tortured a lawyer in Tahrir Square in the Egyptian capital during the January 25 uprising in 2011.
Mansour, commonly known to be a Muslim Brotherhood member, told Anadolu Agency on Saturday: “This is a baseless, fabricated totally false allegation which I didn’t even know about until my name was listed in the case file and began to be talked about in the media.
“I challenge the coup regime in Egypt to come up with a shred of evidence proving that I was anywhere even near the vicinity of the place where the events of this falsified case took place.”
The 2011 clashes erupted when police stationed outside the Egyptian Cabinet headquarters in downtown Cairo assaulted a protester.
The movement, famously known as the “January 25 Revolution,” ended the 30-year rule of autocratic president Hosni Mubarak in early 2011.
Mansour said he was in Tahrir Square during the Egyptian revolution working as a journalist like hundreds of other media people who came from all over the world.
– ‘False accusations’
But he denied being in Tahrir Square on February 3rd, the day he is alleged to have committed the offence, saying he was only able to enter the area the following evening and did not stay overnight as other journalists did.
He said: “In order to clarify the extent of these false allegations, I would like to remind everybody of the fact that the coup regime in Egypt considers me as one of its staunchest enemies in the media since the July 3, 2013 coup.
“For this reason and prior to these false accusations, they have seized all my monies and properties in Egypt without any legal foundations or a court ruling or even a clear charge.”
Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected leader, was ousted by the military in July of last year — after only one year in office — following protests against his presidency.
“My only crime it seems has been that I have been opposing the coup in my programs and writings,” Mansour added.
Asked about if he feared receiving a sentence of life imprisonment in absentia if he failed appear for trial in Egypt, as per Egyptian law, Mansour said: “This regime does not scare children, how can it intimidate me?”
– Journalists’ reputations ‘tarnished’
Mansour accused judges involved in the case of being “corrupt” and said that, although he was not among the accused to start with, his name was later added by prosecutors “to destroy his reputation.”
He went on: “It is related to the 25 January revolution — to exact revenge from all those who took part in it.
“Whereas the real criminals — Republican Guards who killed thousands of people at Rabaa, Nahda and other locations and detained 50,000 people, exercising all sorts of torture against them because they opposed the coup — they are still free and doing what they like.”
Al Jazeera, Mansour’s employer, has denied the charge against him, which was issued after several other Al Jazeera journalists, including Baher Mohamed, Peter Greste and Mohamed Fahmy, were imprisoned in June.
An Al Jazeera spokesman said: “This unjust ruling, along with false accusations and criminal charges, is further evidence of the attempt to silence journalists, tarnish their reputations and disrupt their work.
“Ahmad Mansour himself has been targeted with more than 150 false accusations and complaints by the Egyptian authorities, this verdict being just one of them.”
– ‘Character assassination’
Mansour, who has been with Al Jazeera for 17 years, hosted TV shows such as Without Borders and Century Witness and interviewed scores of world leaders.
A number of cases have been brought against Mansour in Egyptian courts and he has been stripped of his Egyptian nationality.
He said: “The regime reveals the extent of the grudges it holds against me and is engaged in character assassination, which is why these false accusations of torturing a lawyer have been leveled against me — to destroy me professionally.
“They know full well that any political charges against me will turn me into a hero in the eyes of people in my country.”
Mansour went on: “The coup regime follows a strategy of turning its opponents into criminals by accusing them of crimes and moral wrongs.
“This is the reason why no charges relating to opinion or publication have ever been brought against me — they have been replaced by criminal and moral cases.”
– Coup ‘will fail’
Referring to Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Secretary General Mohamed Beltagy, who was also recently convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison, Mansour said: “Dr. Beltagy, may Allah grant him his freedom soon, is one of the lions of the Egyptian revolution and one of its heroes and the Egyptian people owe him an enormous debt and gratitude for the sacrifices he has made, so that his people can liberate themselves from tyranny and for the fundamental role he has played in that revolution.”
However, Mansour criticized Morsi for being “one of the causes behind the current catastrophe” because he accepted the responsibility of ruling the country without knowing how to do it.
“Unfortunately, he did not listen to those who advised him to clean the state of the influence of the military, being a president who came to power by a revolution — to fulfill its demands.”
The Al-Jazeera presenter said he would continue to oppose the coup with his pen.
“As a journalist and media person, I should not be impartial. I should side by what is right and by those who stand by it, and expose falsehood and injustices and transgression. Otherwise, I will be a false witness, which I have decided that I will never be in my life,” he said.
Mansour said the future belongs to the “honorable, revolutionary and free people of Egypt” and underscored that the coup leaders will fail sooner or later like all other similar examples in the world