Cyprus extradites Egyptian hijacker who dropped legal fight

In this image taken in April 22, 2016, EgyptAir plane hijacking suspect Seif Eddin Mustafa, center, with a t-shirt reading “Cici Killer,” is escorted by Cyprus police officers as he arrives in a court in capital Nicosia, Cyprus. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias, File)
Updated 20 August 2018
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Cyprus extradites Egyptian hijacker who dropped legal fight

  • Police said Seif Eddin Mustafa, escorted by Egyptian authorities, boarded an EgyptAir flight to Cairo on Saturday evening
  • Seif Eddin Mustafa hijacked the EgyptAir flight in March 2016 using a fake suicide belt and diverted it to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus

NICOSIA: An Egyptian man who hijacked a domestic EgyptAir flight in 2016 and ordered it to land in Cyprus has been extradited to his homeland after giving up a drawn-out legal fight, authorities said Sunday.
Seif Eddin Mustafa was transferred to Egyptian custody and flown back to Egypt late Saturday, where prosecutors are investigating the incident. Cyprus Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou told The Associated Press that Mustafa’s extradition went ahead after he dropped a three-year court battle to avoid extradition.
Mustafa had challenged extradition on the grounds that he could face torture or an unfair trial in Egypt.
Mustafa hijacked the EgyptAir flight in March 2016 using a fake suicide belt and diverted it to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. A six-hour standoff with Cypriot authorities on the tarmac of Cyprus’ Larnaca airport ended peacefully after all 72 passengers and crew were released and Mustafa was arrested.
Mustafa told a Cypriot court that he meant no harm to anyone. He said he was trying to expose what he called the “fascist regime” of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and to help secure the release of 63 female dissidents being held in Egyptian prisons.
But prosecutors said Mustafa admitted in a written statement to police that he only carried out the hijacking in order to reunite with his Cypriot family, from whom he had been estranged for 24 years. Mustafa dismissed the written statement as “purposeful misinformation” by the Cypriot and Egyptian governments put out to discredit him.
Doros Polycarpou, with the migrant support group KISA that assisted Mustafa, told the AP that the 62-year-old decided of his own accord to return to Egypt and face prosecution there, despite fears that he may be tortured. Egypt and Cyprus have a 1996 extradition treaty.
Polycarpou said Mustafa told his legal team he was willing “to take the risk” of suffering mistreatment at the hands of Egyptian authorities because he could “no longer take” his holding conditions in Cyprus’ prison complex.
He said Mustafa had complained that he was being held in “isolation” and put under “psychological strain” because authorities kept him away from the prison’s general population.
Last year, the European Court of Human Rights blocked Cyprus from extraditing Mustafa until it could rule on whether doing so would violate its prohibition on returning individuals to countries where they may face torture or inhuman treatment.
Cyprus’ Justice Ministry said Sunday that Mustafa had fired his lawyer and expressed a wish to return to Egypt. It added that Egyptian authorities gave assurances that Mustafa would “face legal proceedings commensurate with international standards.”


Boat with migrants rescued off Libya looks for port to dock

Updated 9 min 38 sec ago
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Boat with migrants rescued off Libya looks for port to dock

  • Sea-Watch 3 asked where it can bring the 47 migrants it had taken aboard

ROME: A private rescue boat with dozens of migrants aboard sought permission for a second day to enter a safe port Sunday, but said so far its queries to several nations haven’t succeeded. Another vessel crowded with migrants and taking on water, meanwhile, put out an urgent, separate appeal for help in the southern Mediterranean.
Sea-Watch 3, run by a German NGO, said Sunday it has contacted Italy, Malta, Libya as well as the Netherlands, since the boat is Dutch-flagged, asking where it can bring the 47 migrants it had taken aboard. Sea-Watch tweeted that Libyan officials had hung up when it asked for a port assignment.
An Italian state TV reporter aboard Sea-Watch 3 said the rescue took place Saturday about 50 kilometers (30 miles) off the coast west of Tripoli in Libya’s search-and-rescue area. Libya-based human traffickers launch flimsy or rickety boats, crowded with migrants hoping to reach Europe and its opportunities for better lives.
Separately, Sea-Watch tweeted Sunday afternoon that it had been urgently contacted by a boat with 100 migrants aboard that said it was taking on water, 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) from the current location at sea of Sea-Watch 3.
The distressed vessel reported navigational problems and had among the migrants a child “unconscious or deceased,” Sea-Watch said. Subsequent communication said the boat was “taking in water” and asked Sea-Watch to call for help, “regardless of what this would mean concerning a possible return to Libya,” Sea-Watch said.
The aid group later said Malta on the phone confirmed “that they will come back to us” regarding the distress call, but it wasn’t immediately clear what kind of assistance the Maltese might give.
Migrants dread the prospect of being returned to Libya, where they have reported torture including beatings and rapes in overcrowded detention centers.
The governments of Malta and Italy have been refusing to allow private rescue boats rescuing migrants to dock. Both contend that in recent years they have taken in many migrants rescued at sea and that fellow European Union nations must agree to take their share of these asylum-seekers.
Earlier this month, Malta transferred to land 49 migrants who had been aboard Sea-Watch 3 as long as 19 days but refused the boat port entry. They were allowed to set foot on the southern Mediterranean island only after an EU-brokered deal found several countries willing to take them as well as other migrants, who had been rescued at sea earlier in separate operations by Malta.