CYPRUS (TIP)The man suspected of hijacking an EgyptAir flight and redirecting it to Cyprus has appeared in court and said he acted in a bid “to see his wife and children”.
Seif Eldin Mustafa, 59, flashed “v” signs for victory as he left the court in Larnaca following a short hearing, where he was remanded in custody for eight days on suspicion of hijacking, abduction, threatening violence, terrorism-related offences and two counts related to possession of explosives.
Police said the latter charges would relate to Mr Mustafa’s alleged claim that he had a bomb vest, even though Cypriot officials later said the “explosives” were in fact iPhone covers bound together with cloth.
It has previously been reported that the hijacker made a range of demands after the plane from Alexandria landed at Larnaca airport with 72 passengers and crew on board.
After a six-hour stand-off, the suspect identified by Egyptian and Cypriot authorities as Mr Mustafa walked off the plane and handed himself in to police.
In a statement to Cypriot police, Mr Mustafa said: “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?”
The suspect allegedly commandeered the aircraft 15 minutes after takeoff from Alexandria. He approached a flight attendant and showed off the belt, attached to a remote control he held in his hand, investigating officer Andreas Lambrianou told the court.
“The suspect asked all passengers and crew to hand in their passports, then gave two messages to a member of the crew, asking that the pilot be informed that he was a hijacker and wanted to land at an airport in Turkey, Greece or Cyprus, but preferably Cyprus,” Lambrianou said. “In a note, he stressed that if the airplane landed on Egyptian territory he would immediately blow the plane up.”
In Cyprus, Mustafa dropped an envelope on the runway addressed to a Cypriot woman, later ascertained to be his ex-wife. In the letter, the suspect demanded the release of 63 female prisoners held in Egypt.