NEWS

Egyptair hijacker fights extradition to Egypt

A hijacker who threatened to blow up an EgyptAir plane told the flight crew that he was doing so because he opposes Egypt's military-backed government while his extradition could endanger him because authorities in his homeland don't respect human rights, his lawyer said Monday.

Lawyer Robertos Brahimis told a Cypriot court that both the pilot and co-pilot of the Airbus A320 testified in documents supporting Egypt's request to extradite Seif Eddin Mustafa that he threatened to destroy the plane with a fake suicide belt because "he opposed the Egyptian government's policies."

The disclosure challenges suggestions that the March 29 hijack was due to a domestic dispute with Mustafa's Cypriot ex-wife.

Mustafa, 59, was arrested after forcing an Alexandria-to-Cairo flight to be diverted to Cyprus. All 72 passengers and crew members aboard the EgyptAir plane were released unharmed after a six-hour standoff.

Brahimis said a 1996 Cyprus-Egypt treaty prohibits a suspect's extradition on political grounds.

Prosecution witness Yioulika Hadjiprodromou, however, said Egypt's extradition request has nothing to do with his politics. Hadjiprodromou, the Cypriot Justice Ministry official in charge of extradition requests, said Egypt has given its assurances that Mustafa will receive a fair trial.

Earlier he had said Mustafa would not face the death penalty because the charges don't warrant it.

Brahimis says Mustafa would not receive a fair trial in Egypt because of his political beliefs and he fears he will face torture or execution if returned.

During the hijacking, Mustafa presented handwritten demands denouncing the Egyptian government and the "January 25th coup," a likely reference to the Egyptian military's 2013 overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. [AP]

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