Thursday, May 21, 2009

Death sentences for Suzanne Tamim murderers

An Egyptian billionaire and former top political figure has been sentenced to death in Cairo for the 2008 murder of Lebanese pop star Suzanne Tamim.

Hisham Talaat Moustafa was found guilty of paying $2m to an ex-policeman to kill the singer. The killer Muhsin Sukkari was also sentenced to hang.

Ms Tamim reportedly broke off a secret love affair with Moustafa months before she was stabbed to death in Dubai.

The tale of sex, politics, money and show business gripped the Arab world.

The courtroom descended into chaos after the judge read out a short statement and ordered the sentences referred to the religious authorities for confirmation - as is normal in Egypt. The defendants looked shocked at the verdict and relatives of Hisham Talaat Moustafa jostled with reporters to prevent them photographing his reaction.

Female relatives burst into tears and one of them fainted in the pandemonium.

Lawyer Samir Shishtawi called the verdict "severe", adding: "I want to assure Talaat Moustafa's family that this verdict will be overturned by the appeals court".

Newly married

The indictment had accused the security guard who worked at a hotel owned by Moustafa of killing Suzanne Tamim, 30, with a knife at her luxury Dubai apartment last July.

Clothes found at the apartment carried his DNA, and he was identified after being caught on film by a security camera.

Telephone conversations between Sukkari and Moustafa also formed part of the prosecution's case.

The indictment had accused Moustafa, former head of the Talaat Moustafa Group property empire, of participating in the murder through "incitement, agreement and assistance".

The court heard that he had ordered the killing after twice-married Ms Tamim ended their relationship in favour of an Iraqi kick-boxing champion, Riyad al-Azzawi, whom she had met in London.

Sukkari then followed Suzanne Tamim to the United Arab Emirates and staked out her flat. He gained entry by saying he worked for the building owner and killed her as she opened her front door.


As well as serving in the upper house of the Egyptian parliament, Hisham Talaat Moustafa is known to have been close to President Hosni Mubarak's politically powerful son Gamal.

He sat on the ruling National Democratic Party's policy committee.

Members of the Egyptian elite are often viewed in the country as being above the law, and there was massive public interest in the case.

The Dubai authorities applied such pressure on the Egyptians to bring the case to trial that he was eventually stripped of his parliamentary immunity.

But reporting of the case was banned in Egypt after the opening statements - a ruling which brought sharp criticism from the opposition.

Reporters from Tamim's home area in the Lebanese capital Beirut said her family was "grateful for the verdict".

Suzanne Tamim had risen to stardom throughout the Middle East as the winner of a pop idol contest in Lebanon in 1996.

But her career was marred by reports of a troubled private life.