Saturday,21 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1293, (28 April - 4 May 2016)
Saturday,21 July, 2018
Issue 1293, (28 April - 4 May 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Extradition ruling delayed

The hearing into the extradition of the hijacker of an EgyptAir flight has been adjourned by a court in Cyprus, reports Mohamed Abdel-Baky

Al-Ahram Weekly

Judicial authorities in Cyprus have adjourned the court that is to rule on the extradition of Seifeddin Mustafa, who hijacked an EgyptAir plane and diverted it to Cyprus on 29 March, for three weeks.

On 22 April, a court in Nicosia held its first session in Mustafa’s case, in which the prosecution asked several times to present their case as additional documentation is expected from Egypt as part of the extradition process. The next hearing will be on 13 May. The defence did not object to Mustafa remaining in ‎custody.‎

Handcuffed, Mustafa arrived in court in Nicosia wearing a white T-shirt saying “Ci Ci killer” with the four-finger Rabaa sign used by the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. During the hearing, he stood quietly while the proceedings were translated from Greek into Arabic.

Robertos Vrahimis, the lawyer assigned by the court to represent Mustafa, said that his client has already admitted to hijacking the EgyptAir flight and diverting it to Cyprus last month. However, he said Mustafa had also claimed political asylum in Cyprus.

“Although the prosecution has approved the Egyptian request for extradition, Mustafa’s political asylum request will continue to be examined as long as he is still in Cyprus,” Vrahimis said.

Mustafa has said in press interviews that he will face the death penalty if he is deported to Egypt. However, the authorities in Cyprus have said they have received written assurances from Cairo that Mustafa would not face the death penalty in a trial in Egypt.

Last month’s hijacking ended peacefully six hours after Mustafa forced the Airbus A320 to land at Cyprus’s main Larnaca Airport after threatening to blow it up with a fake suicide belt.

Mustafa was arrested when he stepped off the plane after all 72 passengers and crew had been released. Later, the Cyprus authorities described Mustafa as being “psychologically unstable”.

He is facing charges including hijacking, the illegal possession of explosives, kidnapping and threats to commit violence.

Over the last month, Mustafa has told the media different versions of why he took the action he did. After his arrest in Cyprus, he said he had acted “out of desperation” to see his Cypriot ex-wife and children.

His sister in Cairo said in an interview with the Egyptian CBC TV network that Mustafa had been trying to see his children for years and had tried various ways to illegally enter Cyprus.

However, in an interview with the Egyptian Al-Youm Al-Sabea newspaper last week, Mustafa said he had hijacked the plane because he is “against the current Egyptian government” and is in favour of the 25 January Revolution.

“I want my voice to be heard. I think the revolution has been hijacked and the people deceived,” he said.

Mustafa said he was a member of the Egyptian Communist Party, but later in the interview said that he had joined the Free Egyptians Party.

“I left the Free Egyptians Party because it has become the mouthpiece of the government and given up people’s hopes,” he said.

Mustafa has said that his reasons for hijacking the EgyptAir plane were “political,” but these have been dismissed by some experts as maneuvring to get political asylum in Cyprus.

Political analyst Tarek Fahmy said that the circumstances are against Mustafa, as Egypt enjoys good relations with Cyprus.

“Because of the charges he faces, it is highly unlikely that the Cypriot authorities will grant him asylum, especially since the island’s relations with Egypt have seen huge improvements since President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi came to power,” he said.

Fahmy added that Mustafa seems to have no evidence that he had been discriminated against by the government because of his political or religious beliefs.

Ayman Salama, an expert in international law, said that it is just a matter of time before Mustafa is handed over to Egypt.

“According to the 1970 Montreal Agreement, Cyprus only has the right to detain Mustafa for a short period to investigate what happened, and then it must deliver him to his country,” Salama said.

He added that the reason why Cyprus should hand over Mustafa is because he is Egyptian and the plane that was hijacked was owned by an Egyptian company and had flown from Egypt.

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