NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — A hijacker who threatened to blow up an EgyptAir plane told the flight crew he was doing so because he opposes Egypt's military-backed government — and that is exactly why he should not be extradited to Egypt, his lawyer said Monday.
Lawyer Robertos Brahimis told a Cypriot court that both the pilot and co-pilot of the Airbus A320 have 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 by officials that the March 29 hijack could be due to a domestic dispute with Mustafa's Cypriot ex-wife. Brahimis said Mustafa's extradition could endanger him because authorities in his homeland don't respect human rights. A 1996 Cyprus-Egypt treaty also prohibits a suspect's extradition on political grounds, the lawyer said
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.
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.
He also says Mustafa will 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 he is 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.