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Hijacker extradited to Egypt (Update)

Egyptian Seif Eldin Mustafa

The Egyptian national, who hijacked an airliner in Cyprus in 2016 using a fake explosive belt, was handed over to Egyptian authorities on Saturday.

Seif Eldin Mustafa, 61, was handed over on Saturday after a court ruling cleared the way for his extradition. Egypt’s state prosecutor had said in a statement that Mustafa was handed over to an Egyptian Interpol team after Cairo gave assurances that he would face legal proceedings that conform to international standards. The Cyprus police confirmed that they transferred Mustafa on Saturday afternoon to the Larnaca airport where he was handed over to Egyptian officers.

According to a written statement by Cyprus’ justice ministry, from the first moment of his arrest, Egypt had filed a request for his extradition, following all legal procedures and in consultation with the Attorney-general.

The Egyptian fought the extradition requests in the Cyprus courts arguing he would not receive a fair trial in Egypt.

“Having exhausted all legal remedies that could be used in court proceedings in Cyprus, Mustafa had appealed to the European Court of Human Rights through his lawyer three times, referring to the unsatisfactory conditions of his detention, which were rejected,  as well as to the risk he would have been in if he was extradited to his own country,” the ministry said.

Mustafa subsequently had a change of mind. He expressed the wish to be tried in his own country, the ministry said, and as a result, his application to the ECHR was withdrawn and the extradition procedure was put in motion. The Republic of Cyprus and Egypt have a bilateral agreement for the extradition of suspects for criminal offenses.

The justice ministry said that “the Egyptian authorities have assured that Mustafa will face legal procedures that comply with international standards.”

Mustafa commandeered a domestic Alexandria-Cairo flight with 72 passengers and crew on board in March 2016, ordering it to land at Larnaca airport.

He surrendered to Cypriot authorities about six hours after he landed, having gradually released all passengers and crew unharmed. One passenger took “selfies” with Mustafa which were posted on social media.

Mustafa had taken charge of the early morning flight by showing flight attendants what appeared to be a belt stuffed with plastic wires and a remote control. After the plane landed in Larnaca, he asked for the release of female prisoners in Egypt, and for his Cypriot ex-wife to come to the airport.

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