Egypt court hands life sentence to 2016 Egypt Air hijacker

Seif el-Din Mustafa forced diversion of the domestic flight, with 81 people on board, to Cyprus.

    Mustafa said he did not intend any harm and only wanted to see ex-wife and children [File: Petros Karadjias/AP]
    Mustafa said he did not intend any harm and only wanted to see ex-wife and children [File: Petros Karadjias/AP]

    An Egyptian court has handed a life sentence to a man who hijacked an airliner to Cyprus in 2016 using a fake explosive belt.

    Seif el-din Mustafa, an Egyptian, took charge of the Egypt Air's Alexandra-Cairo flight in March 2016 by flashing what appeared to be a belt stuffed with plastic wires and a remote control.

    He forced the plane, with 81 people on board, to be diverted to Cyprus but surrendered after a five-hour standoff, having gradually released all passengers and crew unharmed.

    Upon landing, Mustafa dropped an envelope on the runway addressed to a Cypriot woman, which later averred to be his ex-wife, from whom he had been estranged for 24 years.

    "When someone hasn't seen his family for 24 years and wants to see his wife and children, and the Egyptian government doesn't allow it, what should one do?" Mustafa told Cypriot police at the time.

    The charges against Mustafa included using intimidation and threats to seize a plane and abduct its passengers for a "terrorist purpose", according to the judicial source. He has the right to appeal within 60 days.

    Cypriot authorities handed him over to Cairo after a court ruling cleared the way for his extradition.

    Cypriot courts had heard appeals since 2016 against the extradition of the 61-year-old to Cairo, rejecting his arguments that he would not receive a fair trial in Egypt.

    Mustafa told a Cypriot court at the time that he did not mean to harm anyone and was instead trying to help secure the release of 63 female dissidents being held in Egyptian prisons and expose what he called the "fascist regime" of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi.

    SOURCE: News agencies