Ex-wife denies Egyptian hijacker ever jailed over politics

AP News
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Posted: Jun 17, 2016 10:58 AM

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — A Cypriot prosecutor tried to cast doubt Friday on an Egyptian hijacker's defense that his opposition to Egypt's military-backed government could put his life at risk if he is extradited.

The hijacker's ex-wife, Marina Paraschou, testified as a prosecution witness during an extradition hearing Friday that Seif Eddin Mustafa had been in jail for most of their nine years of marriage, but that his time behind bars in Egypt, Syria and Yemen was not because of his politics.

Paraschou said Mustafa was imprisoned at least seven times for crimes involving passport forgery, desertion from the Egyptian army and for stealing a car.

Despite having four children with him, Paraschou said she filed for divorce in 1993 after getting fed up with his absences.

"I was tired of this life, of him not contributing anything to his family," she said.

Mustafa's lawyer says his client fears torture or death if extradited because of his political beliefs. Mustafa hijacked a domestic EgyptAir flight in March using a fake suicide belt and diverted it to Cyprus. The six-hour hijacking ended peacefully after all 72 passengers and crew aboard the Airbus A320 were released and Mustafa was arrested.

During the hijacking, Mustafa presented handwritten demands for the release of 63 imprisoned dissident women and denounced the Egyptian government.

Paraschou said she agreed to a police request during the hijacking to go Cyprus' main Larnaca airport and help identify Mustafa.

She told prosecutor Eleni Loizidou that she didn't know Mustafa ever belonged to any group that opposed the Egyptian government.

But she said that he had told her he left the Egyptian army to join the "forces" of Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat.

Under cross examination, Paraschou also said she knew Mustafa worked for the PLO in Greece where they lived for a few months.