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Egyptian hijacker’s wife tells court he was always in and out of prison

File photo: Seif Eldin Mustafa

The Nicosia court heard Friday that the hijacker of the Egyptair plane that was diverted to Larnaca on March 29 was only out of prison for a total of six months during their nine-year marriage, according to his wife Marina Paraschou.

Paraschou from Oroklini, said in her testimony that her ex husband, Seif Eldin Mustafa, 59, had told her he worked for the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO). She also said that on the day of the hijack she had been willing to give herself as a hostage to free the passengers.

Friday’s hearing was part of the process that will decide whether Mustafa will be extradited to Egypt.

At the time of the hijack, he told the authorities his motivation was his desire to see Marina again though they had been split up for more than 20 years. He had originally explained to officers after his arrest that his need to see his family was why he had taken such drastic action.

Paraschou, however painted a different picture saying that in the nine years they were married he spent a total of six months out of prison for one offence or another. As far as she knew he was convicted twice by a military court for desertion from the Egyptian army in order, according to him, to join Yasser Arafat’s forces.

Civil courts also imprisoned him for various offences including forgeries and vehicle theft. Though she had never heard him declare any desire to work, he had told her he was employed by the PLO. She said she had witnessed in him forging passports in 1986/7 but said he was not a member of any organisation and that she did not know who used the documents. He also served time in Syrian prisons for what he told her were political reasons as the Assad regime did not like Arafat. She reckoned he must have served at least six sentences during their marriage.

Mustafa’s lawyer put it to Paraschou that she had supplied the defendant with her father’s passport for use in Egypt to which she the assertion was not true and that her father, an army officer, kept his papers safe. The lawyer submitted that Mustafa was in Cyprus under the name of Agiat El Boxer Alet to which she replied that she had never heard that name before.

Paraschou said the birth of their daughters had been eventful affair at Larnaca hospital with Mustfa dragging their son and threatening to kidnap and leave with him on being given the news she had given birth to twin girls.

She said that on the day of the hijacking she had been informed over the phone of the incident but as she had no means of transport to the airport a police car was sent to her. The police needed her to identify Mustafa from photographs and his voice, she recognised only his pictures. The court heard she had expressed her willingness to be taken hostage in exchange for the release of the other passengers.

None of the passengers and crew was harmed in the hijack. Eighty-one people, which included 21 foreigners and 15 crew were released after a six-hour standoff aboard the diverted Airbus 320 Alexandria-to-Cairo flight.

President Nicos Anastasiades famously answering to the possibility of a broken heart as the cause which prompted the hijacking confirmed that the incident was not terror-related when a reporter asked him “Mr. President, everything was about a woman?”, to which he replied: “Always there’s a woman.”

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