File photo: EgyptAir Hijacker in Cyprus (Reuters)
An Egyptian man lied when he said he hijacked a domestic EgyptAir flight to focus the world's attention on the evils of his country's government, a lawyer seeking the man's extradition claimed Friday.
Lawyer Eleni Loizidou repeatedly attacked Seif Eddin Mustafa's credibility, telling a court that he initially told police in a sworn statement he had hijacked the plane in a bid to see his ex-wife and children in Cyprus after more than two decades apart.
Loizidou said 59-year-old Mustafa never told Cypriot authorities after his arrest that he belonged to an anti-Egyptian government group as he now claims. She also said Mustafa told the Cyprus Asylum Service that he hadn't been persecuted for his political beliefs since the government of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi came to power.
Loizidou tried to poke holes and highlight contradictions in Mustafa's 18-page testimony in which he claimed that he intended to seek asylum in Italy and to expose Egypt's "fascist" government.
Mustafa is fighting his extradition, fearing that he would be tortured and killed if he is sent back to Egypt and that he would be glad to be tried for the hijacking in Cyprus where he says he would receive a fair trial.
Mustafa has disavowed his statement to police immediately after his arrest, saying everything in it is "wrong" and that he only signed it because he "trusted" Cypriot authorities. He has later insisted he belonged to an underground anti-Egyptian government group and that it made no sense for him to hijack a plane simply to see his family.
But the lawyer painted Mustafa as a petty criminal and highlighted contradictions in his testimony, including his claim of being a pacifist while admitting to having volunteered for a suicide bombing mission in Lebanon back in 1979. She also dismissed his claim that he never meant to take hostages when he hijacked the plane.
The March 29 hijacking ended peacefully on the tarmac of Cyprus' Larnaca airport where the plane was diverted after all 72 passengers and crew were released and Mustafa was arrested.