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Egyptian hijacker’s actions had nothing to do with his wife, court hears

Egyptian Seif Eldin Mustafa appearing at a court in Cyprus

The hearing for the extradition of Seif Eldin Mustafa, the 59-year-old hijacker who forced an Egyptair domestic flight to land in Larnaca last March, to Egyptian authorities, will resume on June 1, the Nicosia district court ruled on Thursday.

During Thursday’s hearing, the defendant’s lawyer cross-examined officer Vakis Prodromou, who is the police’s lead investigator for both the hijacking incident and the extradition request.

The prosecution submitted in court the documents by which the Egyptian authorities requested his extradition for trial, as well as the six-page letter Mustafa gave police when the aircraft landed in Larnaca airport.

Among other things, the document described the “unjust treatment” the people of Egypt were being subjected to, claimed that civilians were being tortured, and included a demand for the release of 63 women who were wrongly imprisoned, as well as a mention of a “coup on January 25”.

In the letter, Mustafa noted that his motives had nothing to do with his former wife – a Cypriot woman who was wrongly cited as the reason for the hijacking – but were political in nature.

Egyptian authorities also sent a document assuring their Cypriot counterparts that the hijacker would  be tried fairly according to international standards.

The defence relayed to the court Mustafa’s fear that he would be tortured if extradited. Prodromou countered that, although he does not know what will happen to the defendant if extradited, the Egyptian authorities’ document offers assurances that he will be given a fair trial.

But, he noted, if the Egyptian authorities intended to torture the defendant, they could have done so while he lived in Egypt, where he had resided for a long period.

According to Prodromou, the 59-year-old will be tried on charges relating to hijacking and terrorism, which could incur a life-imprisonment sentence, but not the death penalty.

Cyprus does not extradite suspects to countries where they may face the death penalty.

The court then adjourned as one or two additional witnesses will be called to testify in court.

Mustafa will remain in custody at the Central Prisons until then.

Egypt has asked for Mustafa’s extradition in connection with the March 29 hijacking.

Mustafa had hijacked an Egyptair flight using a fake suicide belt he threatened to detonate in a bid to force the pilot to divert to Turkey, Greece or Larnaca.

Exhibiting increasingly erratic behaviour, he eventually released all passengers and crew and was arrested.

In April, Mustafa formally applied for political asylum but was denied on grounds of having committed a serious crime.

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