NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — A lawyer for an Egyptian airline hijacker fighting extradition from Cyprus argued Friday that his client would not receive a fair trial in Egypt because its government was undemocratic and could not be trusted.
Seif Eddin Mustafa fears he will face torture and execution if returned to his homeland, his lawyer told a Nicosia judge who must rule whether to accept Egypt's extradition warrant.
Mustafa, 59, was arrested March 29 after using a fake suicide belt to force an Alexandria-to-Cairo flight to be diverted to Cyprus. All 72 passengers and crew members aboard the EgyptAir Airbus A320 were released unharmed after a six-hour standoff.
"He will be tried by an undemocratic government and will be treated without due respect to human rights," said lawyer Robertos Brahimis.
"If it's a dictatorship, then human rights are not respected. ... If not democratically elected, the government is not legitimate and its word can't be taken at face value," Brahimis said.
But a Cyprus government official argued in court that the Justice Ministry accepted Egyptian legal assurances that Mustafa would be treated fairly and not face the death penalty.
Mustafa laughed quietly and shook his head as he listened to the translated testimony of the Cypriot official, Yioulika Hadjiprodromou.
Previously, Cypriot authorities had described Mustafa as mentally unstable.
Mustafa has a right of appeal should the current court rule in favor of his extradition. An immigrant rights group in Cyprus called KISA also has filed a lawsuit challenging the Cyprus government's rejection of Mustafa's political asylum request.
During the hijacking, Mustafa presented six pages of hand-written demands to the aircraft crew. In those notes, Mustafa denounced the Egyptian government and the "January 25th coup," a likely reference to the Egyptian military's 2013 overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.
This story has been corrected to fix the spelling of the lawyer's surname.