Cyprus begins extradition of EgyptAir hijacking accused

Nicosia (AFP) –


Legal proceedings to extradite a man accused of hijacking an EgyptAir plane and diverting it to the Mediterranean island officially got under way on Friday.

A Nicosia court received the official documentation requesting the extradition of Egyptian Seif al-Din Mohamed Mostafa, 58 to face trial in Cairo.

Cypriot authorities had to wait six weeks to acquire all the necessary paperwork from Egypt so the justice minister could make the request before the Nicosia court. The court will now decide whether there is sufficient cause to send the accused back to Egypt.

Proceedings were adjourned until May 26 to give the defence time to study Mostafa's initial statement to police and a list of demands submitted during the March 29 hijacking.

Unlike his previous two appearances before the court, Mostafa was not wearing a political slogan on his shirt.

His defence lawyer Robertos Vrahimi complained to the court that his client had his top forcibly removed at the prison under protest and was thus denied his freedom of expression.

Last week he entered the court wearing a polo-neck with the message: "RELEASE THE 63 EGYPTIAN GIRLS YOU LIARS". He misspelt Egyptian – ‘Egyption’.

During another appearance last month he wore a white T-shirt with the message "Cici killer" emblazoned on the front.

It was unclear whether that was a reference to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Mostafa will fight his extradition on the grounds he will not receive a fair trial in Egypt, arguing he could be tortured or face the death penalty if sent back.

Cypriot authorities have said they have written assurances from Cairo that Mostafa will not face the death penalty when he stands trial in Egypt.

However, Mostafa's request for asylum has been refused as Cypriot authorities deem him a "perpetrator of serious crimes".

Mostafa is accused of using a fake suicide belt to seize the Alexandria-to-Cairo flight on March 29 and force it to land in Cyprus.

The Egyptian state prosecutor's office had asked for him to be handed over under a 1996 extradition treaty.

Mostafa, described by authorities as psychologically unstable, has said he acted out of desperation to see his Cypriot ex-wife and children.

According to police, Mostafa gave a voluntary statement admitting the hijacking.

His ex-wife has been quoted by Cypriot media as describing their five years of marriage as a "hell".

The hijacking ended peacefully with Mostafa's arrest.

Most of the 55 passengers were quickly released after the plane landed, but some escaped only minutes before the six-hour standoff finished.