Cyprus Mail

Court reject’s hijacker’s appeal for extradition to Egypt

File photo: Mustafa being taken to court in Larnaca

EGYPTIAN hijacker Saif Eldin Mustafa’s habeas corpus appeal, by which he claimed being unlawfully detained after applying for political asylum, was rejected by the Supreme Court on Thursday.

Mustafa’s extradition was requested by Egypt following his hijacking of EgyptAir’s flight 181 last March, which he diverted to Cyprus under threat of a vest of explosives, which turned out to be false.

In his appeal, Mustafa argued that his detention for purposes of extradition infringed on his rights, as a decision on his request for asylum remains pending.

In addition, he claimed, his detention contravenes articles 2 and 3 of the European convention for human rights, as well as article 3 of the United Nations’ convention against torture.

Finally, his lawyer argued, the charges against Mustafa were not brought in good faith, but due to his political beliefs and criticism he voiced against the Egyptian government.

Noting that Mustafa is wanted by Egyptian authorities for allegedly committing the crimes of hijacking, resisting arrest, holding hostages, jeopardising the security of an aircraft, and violating terrorism laws, the judge recalled that the trial court ordered his detention so that he could be extradited to Egypt, as it was satisfied that the terms of an extradition agreement between the Republic of Cyprus and Egypt were met.

Judge Persefoni Panagi said that, despite the appellant’s fear of torture, should he return to Egypt, the Geneva Convention disqualifies asylum-seekers from protection if they have committed a serious non-political crime, even if it were committed for supposedly political purposes.

Mustafa’s detention for purposes of his extradition, therefore, the judge added, was not deemed illegal on grounds that his asylum request has not yet been ruled on, as was his claim.

With regard to citing the European convention on human rights, Panagi said the burden of proof regarding the risk of being subjected to treatment contrary to article 3 rests with the appellant.

Per his own testimony in trial court, she said, the Egyptian authorities only dealt with him following repeated arrests for using fake passports.

Nor was the court presented with evidence that suggested a real risk of an unfair trial, infringement of his rights, and subjecting him to torture.

Panagi cited a report of the Asylum Service, which described diplomatic assurances from Egyptian authorities as “credible”.

Hijacking, as well as the rest of the crimes Mustafa’s extradition is being requested on, are common criminal code offences, and the circumstances of the case do not suggest a political aspect.

Moreover, no activity by the defendant was proven before the trial court to suggest that his actions may have had a political motive.

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