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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Cyprus delays extradition of EgyptAir hijacker

Cypriot justice ministry awaiting review by European human rights court after the supreme court rejected claims he faced torture in Egypt

Seif Al Din Mohamed Mostafa, an Egytpian man who hijacked an EgyptAir passenger plane to Cyprus, arrives at the court in Larnaca on March 30, 2016, a day after the incident. George Michael / AFP
Seif Al Din Mohamed Mostafa, an Egytpian man who hijacked an EgyptAir passenger plane to Cyprus, arrives at the court in Larnaca on March 30, 2016, a day after the incident. George Michael / AFP

Cyprus has delayed the extradition of an Egyptian man who hijacked a plane and diverted it to the Mediterranean island, after Europe's top rights court took up his case.

The justice ministry said that extradition procedures against Seif Al Din Mohamed Mostafa, 60, had been suspended so the European Court of Human Rights could review his case.

The ECHR "has requested that the republic suspend, as a temporary measure, the handing over to the Egyptian authorities of Seif Al Din Mohamed Mostafa, wanted for hijacking offences", the ministry said.

The ministry said it had instructed officials to suspend moves to hand him over "until the matter is dealt with by the ECHR".

Defence lawyers had appealed to the ECHR after the Cypriot supreme court dismissed Mr Mostafa's appeal against extradition on Thursday.

He is accused of using a fake suicide belt to seize the EgyptAir plane from Alexandria to Cairo in March 2016 and redirect it to Cyprus.

The hijacking ended peacefully with his arrest and the release of the 55 passengers after a six-hour standoff.

Egypt requested that Mr Mostafa be extradited to face trial under a bilateral agreement.

The defence argues that he should not be extradited because he would not receive a fair trial and there was a possibility he could be tortured.

But the Cypriot supreme court rejected Mr Mostafa's appeal against his extradition.

In a unanimous decision, the five-judge bench upheld a lower court ruling rejecting Mr Mostafa's defence that he may be tortured or face a "show" trial.

Last year the lower court said it had no reason to doubt assurances given by the Egyptian authorities that Mr Mostafa's human rights would be respected.

During that hearing Mr Mostafa described himself as a liberal who wanted democracy for an Egyptian people subjected to "abductions, disappearance, illegal detention and extrajudicial killings".

Mr Mostafa said his motive for hijacking the domestic Egyptian flight was to seek asylum in Italy and tell the world about the "repressive" Egyptian government.

He urged the court not to extradite him to Egypt as he would become a "dead man walking".

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