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Hijacker made contradictory statements during asylum bid, court hears

Egyptian Seif Eldin Mustafa

The Nicosia court examining Egypt’s extradition request for the hijacker of the Egyptair plane that was diverted to Larnaca in late March, heard Wednesday that he made contradictory statements in the interview part of his asylum bid.

Administrative Officer Pantelis Kazantzis of the Asylum Service told the court that he had interviewed Seif Eldin Mustafa, 59 on April 15 following a request a few days earlier from the Refugee Reviewing Authority.

Mustafa had said he feared persecution from the Egyptian authorities as he had publicly expressed political opinions against them which they would have been aware of while at the same time confirming that they had not prosecuted him for anything in the 14 months leading up to the hijacking. He admitted his previous convictions had not been for political reasons.

Kazantzis said the defendant had claimed to be Christian while at the same time declaring himself a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood-backed, opposition leader Mohammed Morsi who was deposed by the army. He had also been issued with a passport, which he used to board the hijacked plane, by the same authorities he claims would persecute him for political reasons.

His request to be granted international protection as a refugee was rejected on the grounds that, though he was given the benefit of the doubt on his fear of persecution grounds, the severity of the offences his extradition request was based on were too serious to be overlooked.

While originally claiming the reason he hijacked the aircraft was to see his ex-wife, he then demanded the release of some 63 women being held by the Egyptian authorities.

The court also heard Mustafa did not immediately ask for asylum following the conclusion of the hijack but waited until he was informed of the Egyptian extradition request.

Kazantzis said he thought Egyptian assurances that Mustafa would not suffer degrading treatment was reliable.

None of the passengers and crew was harmed in the March 29 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.

 

 

 

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