Egypt Jet Hijacker Says was Shot Fighting Israeli Troops in Lebanon
An Egyptian hijacker who is fighting his extradition from Cyprus claimed Thursday that he had been wounded in an attack on the Israeli army in Lebanon.
In a surprising twist to lengthy extradition proceedings, Seif al-Din Mohamed Mostafa, 58, told a Cypriot court that he hijacked the domestic EgyptAir flight in March intending to seek asylum in Italy in order to "point the finger" at the Egyptian military regime.
He also accused Egypt's military-backed government of torturing and killing an Italian doctoral student, claiming he saw Giulio Regeni being interrogated in a Cairo prison.
Mostafa said he committed the March 29 hijacking to "expose (Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's) fascist regime to the world." The six-hour ordeal ended peacefully on the tarmac of Cyprus' Larnaca airport where the plane was diverted after all 72 passengers and crew were released and Mostafa was arrested.
"I never wanted to take hostages or frighten anyone," Mostafa said. "It was a desperate move for freedom in Egypt that initiated my actions."
He also blasted Cypriot authorities for calling him "unstable" as well as for suggesting that he committed the hijacking simply to seek out his Cypriot ex-wife whom he said he "had no reason to or plan to see."
Cyprus police said Mostafa told them after his arrest that he acted because the Egyptian government hadn't allowed him to see his ex-wife and three children on Cyprus in 24 years.
Mostafa said this "purposeful misinformation" indicated that the governments of Cyprus and Egypt where in cahoots to "hide my true motives, to discredit me and to cloud the matter."
"I desperately wanted to attract the free western people's attention... so everyone here in the West can see and understand what is going in in Egypt where death or oppression are the fate of anyone who demands freedom, justice, democracy," he said.
Mostafa said he "knows very well" his extradition would result in torture or death. "In any case, when I land in Egypt, I shall be a 'dead man walking'," he said.
Mostafa repeatedly denounced the Egyptian government for mounting a coup against the "freely and democratically elected" Islamist President Mohammed Morsi but denied being a supporter of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.
Although calling himself a "pacifist" and a "liberal," Mostafa outlined at length his alleged membership and actions with the Marxist-Leninist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine as well as with factions opposed to Egypt's peace accord with Israel and the man who signed the agreement, assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
He said he worked for the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia and Greece while using many aliases and forged passports from numerous nations.
Mostafa said he was shot in the foot during attacks against Israeli positions in Lebanon after Israel's 1982 invasion of the country.
He also said he had received training on a large-caliber anti-aircraft machinegun in the former Soviet Union and received the rank of lieutenant.
Mostafa claimed to have been arrested, detained and tortured in Egypt on numerous occasions during the rule of ousted President Hosni Mubarak. He said he was compelled to use forged identification papers and passports even within Egypt because authorities considered him "a suspicious person and a threat to national security."
Source: Associated Press