CAIRO: In a phone interview with Seif Mostafa, the hijacker of an Egyptian plane that forcibly landed in Cyprus, he said his act was to “avenge himself.”
The man, 59, also said he had intended the plane to land in Italy to “scandalize the regime” after the murder of Italian student Guilio Regeni in Egypt.
Mostafa hijacked a domestic flight in March with a fake explosive belt that the crew decided to take seriously for safety purposes. He reportedly told the crew and the Cypriot authorities at the beginning he wanted to meet his Cypriot ex-wife, and delivered a letter for her to read. Both the Cypriot and Egyptian authorities said Mostafa is “unstable.”
Mostafa claimed at the beginning of the interview he was a member of the Egyptian Communist Party, and then said he did not know whether his membership is still valid.
Mostafa: “I was jailed in Egypt for long periods and don’t know what has happened. Only God knows, and my membership in the party began in 1976 in Lebanon because I was a dissident of President Anwar Sadat, and at the time all the opposition was in Lebanon and Syria.
Youm7: What party do you belong to?
Mostafa: Currently I’m a member at the Free Egyptians party, and I was the first to sign a notarized endorsement form for the Free Egyptians to prove there are no Christians in Egypt, because I know the party belongs to Naguib Sawiris.
Youm7: When did you join the Free Egyptians?
Mostafa: Once they announced it after the January 25 Revolution; I was the first to sign a notarized endorsement form, but I forsake the party now because they have become a mouthpiece for the regime. The party had directions that we believe in, but now they cannot open their mouths. At the time of [former President Mohamed] Morsi, they did.
Youm7: You were tried before in a case for overthrowing the regime with others.
Mostafa: Five people were with me in the case in 1997, and we were friends and we were jailed in Tora [prison.] Those five are Mohamed, who lived in el-Zawia el-Hamra [Cairo,] Mohamed and Nasser from Sakyet Mekki in Giza, Ragab Abdel Sattar from Rod el-Farag [Cairo] and Hassan from Basatee [Cairo]. At the time, we were investigated at the State Security and then we were released. Then, we went to the State Security in Lazoghly [in Cairo] and they investigated us. I had been to the State Security numerous times before, but it was the first time for those with me.
Youm7: Have you been jailed in Basateen in a theft case?
Yes, I was jailed last December and someone named Mohamed Ali Morsi was with me in the case.
Youm7: How are you treated in prison in Cyprus now?
Mostafa: There is a very tight siege on me.
Youm7: Do you want to come back to Egypt?
Mostafa: I don’t care if I am sentenced to death or not, what is important is that I have avenged myself.
Youm7: On whom?
Mostafa: On the current regime and the regime before it.
Youm7: By the previous regime you mean Morsi?
Mostafa: No, did poor Morsi stay, did the counterrevolution leave him alone? All those who were babbling at the time no one hears their voice now. They were walking around saying Morsi is a fool, Morsi is so and so, now no one can speak and say Sisi.
Youm7: You mean you hijacked the plane for revenge?
Mostafa: Yes… now I am satisfied, even if I died I would be the winner.
Youm7: Do you want to stay in Cyprus, and did you apply for asylum?
Mostafa: I did not want to go to Cyprus to begin with, I told the pilot to land in one of three countries, Turkey, Cyprus or Greece for fuel because my mission was to go to Italy and that is it.
Youm7: Why Italy?
Mostafa: I wanted to scandalize the regime… because of that Regeni who died and no one knows how.
Youm7: Who called you from Egypt?
Mostafa: My sister Fekriya, at the beginning she was talking normally to me, the second time she told me not to call because “we are in a bad situation that you cannot feel.”
Youm7: How did she reach you?
Mostafa: I call her over the phone because I have her number; I am not lying to you. Oh, I forgot you were from Mohandeseen [a relatively affluent district in Cairo,] which means you do not feel for the people, we basically can’t find food to eat and the dollar has reached 10.5 EGP and isn’t available. Don’t you realize what’s happening in the country or what? I didn’t do the whole plane thing out of nowhere. Am I happy to be sentenced to death or mistreated? I am more than fed-up.
Youm7: Were conditions better under Morsi’s rule?
Mostafa: Did Morsi have a chance to work? I’m not an Ikhwani [Muslim Brotherhood member] but the counterrevolution is obvious.
Youm7: Who incited the hijacking of the plane?
Mostafa: I did. I attempted to hijack a plane before, and the case is at the State Security, this is not the first time.
Youm7: How did you hijack it?
Mostafa: Ploy, deceit and intelligence depending on their stupidity, nothing else.
Youm7: When was the first time you tried to hijack a plane?
Mostafa: It was in Libya in 1997 to break the blockade on Libya and Iraq, but I was arrested at the airport in Libya and was extradited to Egypt. We were six people in this case and were arrested at Tripoli airport. I wanted to take the plane from Libya to break the blockade on Iraq, because it was blockaded by the U.S., and all this is known by the State Security.
Youm7: Do you wish to say anything now?
Mostafa: I don’t want anything for myself. I don’t want Egypt to be like Syria, Yemen, Iraq or Libya. I want Egypt to be OK.
Youm7: Once again, have you asked for asylum in Cyprus?
Mostafa: I don’t know what the lawyer is doing exactly. The problem is that I don’t speak Greek, but it’s all up to God, I didn’t do anything and I know what I’m doing is right. What God wishes will happen, I am not afraid, I’ve been jailed for 18 years and it was fine.
Audio of the interview
Reporting by Mai El-shamy