NICOSIA — Cypriot authorities have rejected an application for political asylum by the Egyptian man who admitted hijacking a domestic EgyptAir flight and diverting it to Cyprus last March, his lawyer said May 13.
Robertos Brahimis said Cyprus’ Asylum Service deemed 59-year-old Seif Eddin Mustafa’s asylum claim inadmissible because he had “perpetrated a serious crime” by hijacking the Airbus A320 with 72 passengers and crew aboard with a fake suicide belt.
Mustafa — described by Cypriot authorities as “psychologically unstable” — forced the passenger jet to land in Cyprus’ main Larnaca airport on March 29. He was arrested when he stepped off the plane after all aboard were released unharmed.
Brahimis said he’s appealing the decision he called mistaken because a claimant has to be granted refugee status before any crime can be weighed against him or her.
He said Mustafa is fighting his extradition because he fears that he won’t get a fair trial in Egypt and that he’ll be “tortured or killed” by Egyptian authorities if a Cypriot court grants his extradition.
Mustafa appeared in court wearing a white, long-sleeved turtle-neck shirt with what appeared to be a hand-written note in purple ink written across the front saying: “release the 63 Egyption (sic) girls you liars.”
Authorities said that Mustafa had insisted during the six-hour hijacking that a letter be delivered to his Cypriot ex-wife in which he demanded the release of 63 dissident women imprisoned in Egypt.
“This is one part of his grievances,” Brahimis said.
The court granted a prosecution request to adjourn proceedings until May 20. Cypriot Justice Ministry official Yioulika Hadjiprodromou told the court the extra time was necessary for Cypriot authorities to receive an additional batch of Egyptian legal documents that would help expedite proceedings.
Brahimis accused Egyptian authorities of “vindictively” delaying procedures to punish his client.
Cypriot prosecutors have yet to formally submit an extradition order to the court. Under a 1996 Cyprus-Egypt treaty, Cypriot authorities have 60 days to file the order from April 7th when Egypt requested Mustafa’s extradition.