Time running out for Cyprus deportation of Egyptian hijacker
NICOSIA - Time is running out for Cyprus to extradite an Egyptian man accused of hijacking an airliner and diverting it to the Mediterranean island as documentation from Cairo is still pending.
A Nicosia court on Friday adjourned the extradition hearing until May 20 in order to give more time for Cypriot authorities to receive the required clarification on extradition documents from Egypt.
Seif al-Din Mohamed Mostafa, 58, is accused of using a fake suicide belt to seize the Alexandria-to-Cairo Egyptair flight on March 29 and force it to land in Larnaca where a six-hour standoff ensued.
He can only be kept in temporary custody for 60 days following the official request for extradition on April 7.
Cyprus has requested the additional information to be sent as soon as possible and Cairo said the requested documentation will arrive next week through diplomatic channels.
Mostafa was escorted to court Friday in handcuffs wearing a white polo-neck top with "RELEASE THE 63 EGYPTIAN GIRLS YOU LIARS" written on his shirt.
A written letter he gave during the hijacking demanded the release of female prisoners in Egypt. The standoff ended peacefully with Mostafa's arrest.
The suspect, described by authorities as psychologically unstable, has said he acted out of desperation to see his Cypriot ex-wife and children.
His ex-wife has been quoted by Cypriot media as describing their five years of marriage as a "hell".
Mostafa's defence lawyer Robertos Vrahimi told the court on Friday that Egypt was "unjustifiably" delaying the extradition process as a "vindictive and punitive measure" against his client.
But Justice Ministry official Yioulika Hadjiprodromou said the extradition was a "top priority for both Cyprus and Egypt".
"There is no intention on either side to deliberately delay this case," Hadjiprodromou told the court.
"Cyprus is not in a position to pressure another country to speed up the process in such matters," she added.
Mostafa will fight his extradition on the grounds he will not receive a fair trial in Egypt or even worse.
"He will get an unfair trial in Egypt and could be tortured or killed if sent back, so he shouldn't be extradited," Vrahimi told AFP.
Cypriot authorities have said they have written assurances from Cairo that Mostafa will not face the death penalty when he stands trial in Egypt.
His request for asylum has been refused.
Mostafa's lawyer said Cypriot authorities declined to study the application due to the Egyptian being a "perpetrator of serious crimes".