Nicosia - The Cypriot ex-wife of an Egyptian who hijacked a plane to Cyprus and is fighting extradition, on Friday denied his claims of being a political activist and portrayed him as a common criminal.
Marina Paraschou was called to testify in a Nicosia court by the state as it seeks to have Seif al-Din Mohamed Mostafa, 58, extradited to Egypt, which has requested he face trial under a bilateral agreement.
State counsel is trying to discredit claims by the defence that as a known political activist Mostafa would not receive a fair trial in Cairo for the hijacking in March.
Paraschou said Mostafa had never belonged to any opposition group in Egypt or been convicted for his political beliefs, despite spells behind bars in different Arab states.
"He was jailed in Egypt for being an army deserter and was convicted for passport forgery... and stealing a car," Paraschou told the court.
During the two-hour hearing, which was adjourned until June 22, Mostafa locked his gaze on his ex-wife with a wry smile while she avoided any eye contact.
Mostafa had deserted the Egyptian army in the 1980s to join the Palestine Liberation Organisation in Beirut, she said, before moving in 1983 to Cyprus where the couple met and had four children.
According to Paraschou, he had never taken part in any anti-regime protests in Egypt or faced harassment by Egyptian authorities for being a political activist, Paraskou said.
The couple were together from 1983 to 1992, before Paraschou left her husband and divorced him in 1994.
Fake suicide belt
Mostafa spent all but one of their nine years as a couple behind bars, serving jail stints in Egypt, Yemen and Syria, she said.
The 58-year-old Egyptian man is accused of using a fake suicide belt to seize the plane flying from Alexandria in northern Egypt to Cairo and divert it to the Mediterranean island on March 29.
According to police, Mostafa voluntarily admitted to the hijacking that ended peacefully with his arrest and the release unharmed of the 55 passengers after a six-hour stand-off.
His lawyer Robertos Vrahimi has argued that the hijacker's motive was to draw attention to injustices in his homeland.
Mostafa is fighting his extradition, arguing he could be tortured or face the death penalty if sent back to Egypt.
His request for asylum has been refused as Cypriot authorities deem him a "perpetrator of serious crimes".
The Cypriot justice ministry says Egypt has given assurances of a fair trial.