Bogus Suicide Bomber Faces Extradition to Egypt
Mustafa to be extradited to Egypt
Seif Eldin Mustafa is to be extradited to Egypt, despite strong arguments from his top extradition lawyers, ruled the Nicosia district court. Mustafa stood before the Nicosia district court at the end of September this year but neither he nor his extradition lawyers convinced the judges that he would not receive a fair trial in Egypt.
Mustafa boarded an Egypt Air flight in Alexandria back in March of 2016 which contained seventy-two other passengers plus crew members on board. The domestic Alexandria – Cairo flight was commandeered by Mustafa who demanded the flight path be redirected so to arrive in Larnaca airport, Cyprus.
Mustafa, who is 59, had hijacked the plane whilst wearing an imitation suicide belt. He wanted the plane to land in Cyprus, where his estranged wife was domiciled. At the extradition hearing, his lawyers fought against charges of hijacking a plane, kidnapping passengers, threatening behavior and other offences that constituted a breach of anti-terror laws.
At the time of the hijacking it was claimed by Mustafa that the reason for taking the plane and forcing the pilot to divert from the flight path was that he was not able to see his children and estranged wife due to the Egyptian government. According to media reports Mustafa had not seen his children in twenty-four years however, Mustafa’s wife, Marina Paraschou has spoken out rejecting these claims, stating he did not hijack the plane to see her. Pataschou has highlighted the romantic portrait of a man attempting to see his estranged wife but the truth could not be further from that image.
The Judge, Dona Constantinou, held that Mustafa must be extradited, she gave a time frame for his extradition of just ten days’. During this time Mustafa will remain in police custody. Mustafa’s top extradition lawyer, Mr. Brahimis, said they were appealing this decision, the fight was not yet over.
Mustafa and his extradition lawyers have fought hard to keep him in Cyprus stating that he would not receive a fair trial if he was returned to Egypt, they have also highlighted that they fear Mustafa would face torture or even be killed by the authorities in Egypt if he were to return. Judge Constantinou rejected this line of argument. The judge held if Mustafa were worried about his human rights not being respected in Egypt then he would not have chosen to stay there prior to the hijacking. As Judge Constantinou highlighted Mustafa had been issued a legitimate passport and was able to leave the county at any time.
It was held that Mustafa and his extradition lawyers had not convinced the court that he had been persecuted due to his religious belief by the authorities within Egypt, nor had Mustafa been charged in Egypt with any recent counts of protesting, or any charges which related to political action. Mustafa had been incarcerated for using forged passports to travel outside of Egypt. Mustafa showed no emotion as the forty-two-page document was read out.
Mustafa had claimed that he hijacked the Egyptian plane, meaning to cause no harm to the passengers, crew or any civilians but instead to call attention to the wrongs being committed by the Egyptian government.
Mustafa’s testimony, given in June, spanned twenty pages. During this testimony he repeatedly accused Egypt’s government of creating a movement against the Islamist President. Mustafa stated how President Mohammed Morsi had been democratically elected but he himself was not a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood. He also spoke at length about his support for and involvement in the Marxist- Leninist Democratic Front of Palestine and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation since the 1970s. Mustafa was also a supporter of a number of other parties who were against the peace treaty that was held between Israel and Egypt. Mustafa claimed during his testimony that the hijacking of the Air Egypt flight was to fight for the release of the sixty-three female prisoners who were in Egyptian prisons due to the non-conforming actions. The judge in the case held that although Mustafa’s extradition lawyers had argued the case as best they could, Mustafa had already cut ties with these groups in 1990 and there was no proof of a connection with the female prisoners.
Mustafa hijacked the plane on an early Tuesday morning. At the time he was thought to have been wearing an explosive belt. After a six-hour standoff it was revealed that the belt was a hoax which contained nothing more than iPhone cases tied together with cloth.
An English man, Mr Innes, was one of the three remaining passengers on the Egypt Air flight along with four crew members. Innes decided to take a “selfie” with Mustafa whilst still held captive on the plane. According to Innes he did to so as an attempt to remain in better spirits and also to gain a closer look at the explosive belt stating he had nothing to lose if it were in fact real.
Mustafa’s extradition lawyers continue to fight against the extradition to Egypt and are committed to appealing to the highest Cypriot court in order to ensure Mustafa will face a fair trial. Although Mustafa faces charges of hijacking an Egyptian plane as Judge Constantinou highlighted the crime does not carry the death penalty. Furthermore, Egyptian authorities have made formal reassurances to the Cypriot officials that Mustafa would obtain a trial that was fair and that his human rights would be honoured.
If the appellate courts believe Mustafa can gain a fair trial and will not be at risk of death or foul treatment, they may not be convinced to overrule the lower courts. The Cypriot authorities have continued to process this case at a speedy rate suggesting they do not want to fight the Egyptian government on this case but Mustafa’s top extradition lawyers are not beaten yet.