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Thu 26 Sep 2019 10:09 AM

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Egyptian plane hijacker handed life sentence

Most of the 55 passengers were quickly released after the plane landed, but some escaped only minutes before the six-hour standoff ended

Egyptian plane hijacker handed life sentence
An EgyptAir Airbus A-320 sits on the tarmac of Larnaca airport after it was hijacked and diverted to Cyprus on March 29, 2016.

An Egyptian court has sentenced a hijacker to life in prison for seizing a plane and diverting it to Cyprus in 2016, a judicial source said.

Seif al-Din Mohamed Mostafa was accused of using a fake suicide belt to hijack the EgyptAir plane flying from Alexandria to Cairo in March 2016.

The 61-year-old Egyptian was sentenced on Tuesday for forcing the flight to divert to Larnaca Airport on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus.

Most of the 55 passengers were quickly released after the plane landed, but some escaped only minutes before the six-hour standoff ended.

He can appeal his sentence at the Court of Cassation.

Mostafa was extradited to Cairo in August 2018 and handed over to Egyptian prosecutors for further investigation. His trial began in January 2019.

Accusations against Mostafa included deliberately disrupting a flight and seizing control of an aircraft through threats and intimidation.

Another charge levelled against him was promoting the ideas of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's public prosecutor said in December.

The Islamist group was banned and deemed a terror group in 2013, after the military ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi.

Mostafa fought his extradition on the grounds he would not receive a fair trial in Egypt, but the Cypriot Supreme Court dismissed his appeal.

His request for asylum was also refused by Cypriot authorities on the grounds that he was a "perpetrator of serious crimes".

According to Cypriot police, Mostafa gave a voluntary statement admitting to the hijacking, which ended peacefully with his arrest.

It took place months after the Islamic State group bombed a Russian airliner carrying holidaymakers from Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in October 2015, killing all 224 people on board.

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