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Hijacker to appeal extradition (Updated)

File photo: Seif Eldin Mustafa being led away from court by police

Nicosia District Court on Friday approved the request by Egypt to extradite Seif Eldin Mustafa to stand trial in connection with the hijacking of an EgyptAir plane on March 29, 2016 which was diverted to Larnaca.

Judge Dora Constantinou on reading the decision ordered the detention of Mustafa and informed him of his right to apply for Habeas Corpus in the Supreme Court.

Mustafa’s lawyer, Roberto Vrachimis said after hearing the decision of the judge that he had received instructions from his client to appeal the decision.

The court rejected the evidence presented that Mustafa would be persecuted for his political views, accepting the assurances of the Egyptian authorities that he would receive a fair trial, safeguarding his rights, and ordered he be extradited within 10 days, remaining in police custody until then.

Mustafa took over EgyptAir flight MS181 last March, threatening to blow it up with suicide belt that later turned out to be no more than a few mobile phone cases taped to his body.

None of the passengers and crew were 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.

The defence fought extradition on human rights grounds, saying Mustafa faced torture or death if he was sent back to Egypt, especially under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s regime.

Last month the court refused testimony from Emile George Howard Joffe, a leading international relations expert at London Metropolitan University, saying it was inadmissible because his expertise was not specific to Egypt’s current domestic situation.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) in a recent statement said it had received information that the Cairo Criminal Court ordered, September 17, the freezing of the assets of a number of human rights and civil society organisations on the grounds of their being funded from outside Egypt.

The observatory condemned the court decision, calling it the latest evidence of an increasing pattern of judicial harassment launched by the authorities in 2011 targeting civil society organisations and human rights defenders in Egypt.

Human Rights Watch’s 2016 country 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 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.”


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