By Eleni Lazarou
Nicosia District court on Tuesday postponed the extradition hearing of an Egyptian man wanted for hijacking an EgyptAir flight that was diverted to Larnaca, following a request from his lawyers for time to summon human rights expert witnesses.
Asking for a months’ adjournment, Roberto Vrahimis representing Seif Eldin Mustafa, told Judge Dona Constantinou that he was in contact with Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network through which he would have a report compiled on the rights situation in Egypt. He said there were difficulties finding Egyptian rights experts who would testify against their government in the current climate.
“I have spoken with three human rights organisations, we are awaiting their response; and a retired Oxford teacher who also taught at the American University of Cairo, human rights expert Barbara Harrel Bond, may testify as a witness.”
None of the passengers and crew were 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.
Judge Constantinou granted a postponement until July 22 saying “Under normal circumstances I would not approve such a request, but because this is the basic line of defence against the extradition, I shall grant a two-week suspension of the trial.”
On arriving at the court and being led to the holding cells Mustafa appeared nervous, anxious and lost, looking about nervously at his surroundings.
After the hearing, Doros Polycarpou, Executive Director of the immigrant support group KISA, who has taken an interest in the case told Cyprus Mail that “Egyptian human rights activists are arbitrarily stopped at the airport without warning and prevented from leaving the country to give evidence.”
Human Rights Watch’s 2016 county report on Egypt states that “The Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms, an independent group, documented 47 deaths in custody between January and June and said in an October report that 209 detainees had died due to medical negligence since [President Abdel Fattah] el-Sisi took office in June 2014.”
Amnesty International documented that in Egypt “Detainees faced torture and other ill-treatment. Courts handed down hundreds of death sentences and lengthy prison sentences after grossly unfair mass trials. There was a critical lack of accountability; most human rights violations were committed with impunity. Women and members of religious minorities were subject to discrimination and inadequately protected against violence. People were arrested and tried on charges of “debauchery” for their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The army forcibly evicted communities from their homes along the border with Gaza. Executions were carried out following grossly unfair trials.”