Saturday,18 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1314, (6 - 12 October 2016)
Saturday,18 August, 2018
Issue 1314, (6 - 12 October 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Hijacker to be extradited

A court in Cyprus ordered the extradition of the hijacker who commandeered an EgyptAir passenger plane in March, reports Mohamed Abdel-Baky

Al-Ahram Weekly

Judicial authorities in Cyprus on 30 September ordered the extradition of Seifeddin Mustafa who hijacked an EgyptAir plane with a fake explosive belt and diverted it to Cyprus on 29 March.

Mustafa, 59, failed to convince a Nicosia district court that he could not get a fair trial in Egypt.

The hijacking ended peacefully six hours after Mustafa forced the Airbus A320 to land at Cyprus’ main Larnaca Airport after threatening to blow it up with a fake suicide belt. The plane took off from Alexandria and was to have landed in Cairo.

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.

According to court records published by Egypt’s MENA news agency, Mustafa’s lawyer tried to persuade the court that the defendant risked discrimination by the Egyptian government and handing him over to Cairo could jeopardise his safety.

“He could be tortured or killed if the court decides to extradite him to Egypt,” Mustafa’s lawyer said in a hearing in June according to court records.

But the judge said in his ruling that Mustafa had no history of being targeted by the Egyptian government because of his political beliefs. He said the government had not imposed a travel ban on him and he was given a valid Egyptian passport like all other citizens.

In June, General Prosecutor Nabil Sadek went to Larnaca to follow up on the investigation and presented the required documents to Cypriot judicial authorities.

Mustafa was handed over to Egypt according to the 1996 criminal extradition agreement between Egypt and Cyprus.

“The Cypriot court could did not find any legal reason not to extradite Mustafa to Egypt, and that keeping him there could violate the 1996 agreement between the two countries,” said Nabil Helmi, a professor of international law at Cairo University.

Helmi added that the judicial authorities took more than four months to reach their decision and studied all document related to the case.

“There is no sign of any political motive behind the Cypriot court to extradite Mustafa to Egypt. Its decision is based only on legal justifications,” Helmi said.

Over the last several months, Mustafa has given different versions of why he hijacked the plane. After his arrest in Cyprus, he said he had acted “out of desperation” to see his Cypriot ex-wife and children.

In Cairo, his sister said in an interview with CBC TV in April 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-Sabei newspaper, Mustafa said he had hijacked the plane because he was “against the current Egyptian government” and supported 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 a mouthpiece of the government and has given up on the hopes of the people,” he said.

Mustafa has said his reasons for hijacking the EgyptAir plane were “political” but these have been dismissed by the Cypriot government as manoeuvring to get political asylum in Cyprus.

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