An Egyptian court on Thursday confirmed the death sentences of a business tycoon and a former police officer convicted of killing rising Lebanese pop star Suzanne Tamim.
In a case that has captivated Egypt and the region because of the fame of the victim and one of the defendants, a judge sentenced to death real estate mogul Hisham Talaat Moustafa and former officer Muhsen el Sukkari last month. Tamim’s body was found stabbed, with her throat slit, in her apartment in the United Arab Emirates in July 2008. The court’s latest decision came after a review of the sentence by Egypt’s grand mufti, the country’s highest religious official. Because the two men were sentenced under Islamic law, it is widely expected they will be hanged. The court usually seeks to get the Mufti’s “advice only on any death sentence, according to the law,” a legal source in Cairo told CNN. “However, the Mufti’s advice to the court is not binding at all,” added the source, who asked not to be named. “Even if the Mufti was against the death sentence, that will not have any effect on the judge’s decision, who will have the final say,” the source said. Since his 2003 appointment as grand mufti, Sheikh Ali Gomaa has received about 480 cases from the court that included death sentences. He supported the judge’s decision in 478 and opposed twice, but the rule was implemented according to the court conviction.
Moustafa’s lawyer previously told reporters that he would appeal the conviction, saying there was “a 1 million percent guarantee” the sentence would be overturned. Prosecutors alleged Moustafa, a parliament member for the ruling National Democratic Party, paid el Sukkari $2 million to kill Tamim. During the trial, Moustafa’s lawyer told CNN his client loved the singer but could not take Tamim as a second wife because his family objected. Polygamy is legal in Egypt, and it’s not unusual for men such as Moustafa, a married father of three, to take on additional wives. Prosecutors have said Tamim’s death was a “means of taking revenge” but have not elaborated. Moustafa and el Sukkari claim the prosecution’s evidence could have been fabricated or tampered with by UAE authorities and should not be used against them. Although Tamim was killed in the UAE, the Egyptian judiciary tried the case in Cairo because the accused were arrested in Egypt. After Moustafa’s arrest in September, Egyptian authorities indicted him, stripped him of his parliamentary immunity and jailed him pending trial. He also resigned as chairman of Talaat Moustafa Group — a conglomerate with construction and real estate arms that was founded by his father, Talaat Moustafa. Moustafa’s brother, Tarek Talaat Moustafa, now chairs the company.