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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Cyprus hands Egyptian plane hijacker over to Cairo

Cypriot courts had heard appeals since 2016 against the extradition of the 61-year-old to Cairo

Egyptian Seif Eldin Mustafa, who hijacked an EgyptAir passenger plane, is transferred by Cypriot police from the court back to the prison in Nicosia, Cyprus on May 13. Reuters
Egyptian Seif Eldin Mustafa, who hijacked an EgyptAir passenger plane, is transferred by Cypriot police from the court back to the prison in Nicosia, Cyprus on May 13. Reuters

The Cypriot authorities have handed over to Cairo an Egyptian man who hijacked a plane to Cyprus in 2016 using a fake explosive belt, Egypt’s state prosecutor said.

Seif Eldin Mustafa, 61, was transferred to an Egyptian Interpol team in Nicosia after a court ruling cleared the way for his extradition and after Cairo provided assurances that he would face legal proceedings that conform to international standards.

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

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.

Read more: Cyprus delays extradition of EgyptAir hijacker

The hijacking ended peacefully with his arrest and the release of the passengers after a six-hour standoff. One passenger took "selfies" with Mustafa which were posted on social media.

Cypriot courts had heard appeals since 2016 against the extradition of Mustafa to Cairo, rejecting his arguments that he would not receive a fair trial in Egypt.

Mustafa has described himself as a liberal who wanted democracy for an Egyptian people subjected to "abductions, disappearance, illegal detention and extrajudicial killings".

He said his motive for hijacking the EgyptAir plane was to seek asylum in Italy and tell the world about the "repressive" Egyptian government.

He had urged not to be extradited to Egypt as he would become a "dead man walking".

However, a lower court last year said it had no reason to doubt the assurances given by the Egyptian authorities that Mustafa’s human rights would be respected.