EgyptAir hijacker Seif El-Din Mustafa requested political asylum in Cyprus while his extradition to Egypt was in process, according to foreign media reports sourcing Cypriot authorities on Tuesday.
Last Wednesday, the Ministry of Justice approved the extradition of Mustafa back to Egypt in response to a request made by Egypt, Cyprus News Agency reported.
Mustafa is facing terrorism-related charges after forcing an EgyptAir flight to land in Larnaca airport, claiming the possession of a suicide belt. The flight’s scheduled route was from Alexandria to Cairo.
Mahmoud Kebaish, former dean of the Faculty of Law at Cairo University, asserted that Cyprus has full authority over Mustafa’s fate, the crime having occurred in its sovereign state.
“Only Cyprus can decide whether to grant Mustafa refuge or not, regardless of the accusations he is facing,” Kebaish said in comments to Daily News Egypt on Tuesday. “Contrary to common belief, Cyprus is not obliged to hand him over under any international commitment, despite Egypt’s demands,” he added.
Kebaish highlighted two points in support of his argument. First, the crime in question happened in both countries’ aerial zones and at the end Cyprus is the state in which the plane landed. Second, Kebaish argued that, according to the international law on extradition, the handover of suspects is only binding if they committed a crime in their country of origin and then escaped to the country where they seek asylum.