Cyprus Mail

Egyptian hijacker’s lawyer presents new version of events

Egyptian Seif Eldin Mustafa

EGYPTIAN hijacker Seif Eldin Mustafa never asked to see his former wife during the March 29, 2016, hijacking of an Egyptian Airlines plane, which he diverted to Larnaca to flee Egypt and demand the release of women detained as political prisoners, his lawyer Nicoletta Charalambidou has told the Sunday Mail.

According to Charalambidou, Mustafa’s supposed demand to see his former wife during the hostage situation after he got the plane to land in Larnaca and threatened to detonate an explosives-laden belt that turned out to be fake, is a myth possibly created and perpetuated by the Cypriot authorities in order to assign a motive other than fear of political persecution to him.

The Nicosia district court approved Mustafa’s extradition to Egypt, rejecting his claims that if he were extradited he would be subjected to torture and not tried fairly.

He appealed this ruling, but on Thursday the supreme court rejected the appeal.

Meanwhile, his request for political asylum was rejected by the Immigration service on grounds of having committed a criminal offence – hijacking a plane.

But in a dramatic last-minute turn, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou was forced to suspend all proceedings in the extradition case until the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) had heard an appeal filed by Mustafa’s lawyer.

“The ECHR has decided to look at [Mustafa’s] case as a priority, but unfortunately there is no way of knowing how long this might take,” Charalambidou said.

Until then, however, all proceedings against him will remain suspended.

“We are satisfied with the ECHR’s intervention,” the lawyer said.

“You can’t extradite an asylum-seeker – let us not forget that he is still an asylum-seeker. Also, you can’t make a determination on whether Mustafa is, in fact, at risk of torture or political persecution back in his home country without even looking at others’ testimony or evidence of such risk. The court refused to allow the submission of this evidence.”

Mustafa did not diver the hijacked plane to Cyprus so that he could see his ex-wife, Charalambidou added.

“He opted to hijack a domestic flight, and his intention had been to divert it to Italy, not Cyprus,” she said.

“What he wanted to do is make a statement about the persecution of political beliefs in Egypt and secure the release of women political activists currently in prison there. He never even asked to see her, as was falsely reported.”

The woman even testified in court that she was never told that Mustafa wanted to see her when she was asked to go to the airport during the hostage situation.

“She testified that she was asked to go there in order to confirm his identity,” Charalambidou said.

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