Cyprus court orders Egyptian hijacker extradited

Seif Eddin Mustafa hijacked a domestic EgyptAir flight in March with a fake suicide belt and diverted it to Cyprus where he was later arrested – but Egypt wants him back.
Seif Eddin Mustafa flashes the victory sign from inside a police car after leaving court for a remand hearing on March 30, 2016. Petros Karadjias, File / AP Photo
Seif Eddin Mustafa flashes the victory sign from inside a police car after leaving court for a remand hearing on March 30, 2016. Petros Karadjias, File / AP Photo

NICOSIA // A Cyprus court on Friday approved a request from the Egyptian government to extradite a man who hijacked a domestic EgyptAir flight with a fake suicide belt and diverted it to Cyprus.

Judge Dona Constantinou ordered that Egyptian Seif Eddin Mustafa be extradited within 10 days and remain in police custody until then. Mustafa’s lawyer, Robertos Brahimis, said his client would appeal the decision.

Mustafa claims he hijacked the EgyptAir jet in March to underscore the wrongs done by Egypt’s military-backed government and that he meant no harm to anyone. The hijack ended peacefully after all 72 passengers and crew were released and Mustafa was arrested.

The 59-year-old has fought his extradition, saying he fears being tortured or even killed by Egyptian authorities if he’s sent back.

But Ms Constantinou rejected Mustafa’s argument, saying he had opted to stay in Egypt despite his claims that the country doesn’t respect human rights.

“He never abandoned Egypt and continued to live there even after being issued a legitimate passport,” Ms Constantinou said in her 42-page decision. Mustafa showed no emotion as he listened to a translation of the judge’s decision.

Ms Constantinou said Mustafa had failed to persuade the court that he had ever been persecuted by Egyptian authorities for his political beliefs. She said that he never specified any recent actions, participation in protests or that he has been tried on charges relating to his politics.

His numerous incarcerations in Egypt had to do with his use of forged passports for travelling outside the country, said the judge.

In 20 pages of testimony given in June, Mustafa repeatedly denounced the Egyptian government for mounting a coup against the “freely and democratically elected” Islamist president Mohammed Morsi but denied being a supporter of his movement, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mustafa also spoke at length about his involvement from the mid-1970s with the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Marxist-Leninist Democratic Front of Palestine as well as with factions opposed to Egypt’s peace accord with Israel. Another reason he gave for committing the hijacking was to demand the release of 63 female dissidents being held in Egyptian prisons.

But judge Constantinou said Mustafa had admitted cutting off ties with pro-Palestinian groups in 1990 and had failed to convince the court of his connection with the female dissidents.

She said Mustafa faces hijacking charges in Egypt that don’t carry the death penalty. Cypriot officials said during the proceedings that Egyptian authorities had given formal assurances that Mustafa would receive a fair trial and have all his rights respected.

* Associated Press

Published: September 30, 2016 04:00 AM

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