Cypriot court remands in custody man suspected of hijacking EgyptAir flight
NICOSIA - A man accused of hijacking an EgyptAir flight on Tuesday forcing it to land in Larnaca, Cyprus, was remanded in custody for eight days on Wednesday pending further investigation into the case.
The man (C) who was arrested after he hijacked an EgyptAir flight, which was forced to land in Cyprus on Tuesday, is transferred by Cypriot police as they leave a court in the city of Larnaca, Cyprus March 30, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]
The charges provisionally brought against him are hijacking, threatening violence and life, terrorism-associated offences and possession of explosives, resulting from his claim that he was rigged with a suicide belt.
An investigator told the court that the man, who has been identified by police as Seif el-Din Mustafa, aged 59, told Cypriot police he carried out the hijacking because he wanted to see his ex-wife and four children.
"When one has not seen his family for 24 years and wants to see his wife and children and the Egyptian government does not allow it, what should one do?" the man was reported to have told the police during questioning.
Investigator Andreas Lambrianou recounted to the court the official version of events that led to the diversion of the EgyptAir MS-181 from its flight from Alexandria to Cairo to Larnaca airport.
He said that just before 8:30 am on Tuesday MS-181 entered into the Cypriot FIR and asked permission to land at Larnaca. The request was turned down but the decision was reversed after the pilot said he was running out of fuel.
The investigator said that 15 minutes after take-off the man went to the rear of the plane and showed a white belt he had on to a member of the crew.
There were cylindrical objects into the vest's pockets and wiring which was connected to a remote control the man was holding in his hand, with his thumb on the button.
A member of the crew testified to the police that he thought that the objects in the vest were explosives and that he believed that there was a real danger of blowing up the plane.
Lambrianou said the suspect handed two notes to the member of the crew telling him to give it to the pilot and threatened to blow up the vest if his request was not met.
"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," said Lambrianou.
At Larnaca airport he allowed the passengers and members of the crew to leave in groups at different times during the six-hour drama.
The investigator added that the suspect handed an envelope in which he had a note with the name of a Cypriot woman, who was later established to be his ex-wife. There was also a note demanding the release of 63 women from Egyptian prison.
Lambrianou said that on examination the vest was found to be fitted with a firing mechanism but it did not seem to contain any explosives. A small bottle of liquid found in the vest is being examined by police.
In passing in front of journalists in a police vehicle after the court session Mustafa stuck his hand out of the open window and flashed the "V" sign for victory.