Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim was found brutally murdered in her flat in the affluent Dubai Marina neighborhood last month. The 30-year-old singer suffered multiple stab wounds and was decapitated by her killer. Tamim was believed to have been hiding out in Dubai after leaving Cairo eight months earlier.
The singer, who rose to fame after winning the televised ‘Studio al-Fann’ talent show, had been married twice and was still entangled in a series of bitter legal battle with her second husband, music producer Adel Maatouuk who had accused her of embezzlement, slander and libel, among other accusations. Maatouk had issued a court order a few years ago to prevent his wife leaving Lebanon but she managed to escape to Cairo, then Dubai where she was later murdered.
Although some allege that security in the Rimal Towers was not stringent enough, some residents disagree. According to local news reports, a resident of the building said, “I have been living here for the past year. It’s a very safe and secure place. It is impossible for anyone to enter any building before being questioned by security. I believe that the singer’s killer either went up with her or she asked security to let him in.”
Last Sunday, media reports circulated the news that a 39-year-old man was arrested as the prime suspect in the murder case. According to various reports, he was arrested three days after entering Egypt after Lebanese authorities sought the assistance of Interpol. The murderer is reportedly linked to a highly influential Egyptian business tycoon who was allegedly involved with the deceased singer.
Dubai’s acting police chief, Mattar al Mazeina, stated that the suspect had posed as an estate agent to gain entry into Tamim’s flat. He also added that the murderer had fled from Dubai 90 minutes after the murder but that he had left behind evidence at the scene.
And yet, despite the fact that the case seems to be unraveling amidst the controversial reports and findings, a media censorship crisis has surfaced in the Egyptian arena. The independent Egyptian newspaper ‘Al-Dustor’ published an article entitled “Is an Important Egyptian Figure Implicated in the Murder of a Lebanese Singer?” Although the daily did not name names, it reported that he was “highly influential” and “close to power.”
According to News agency reports, Egypt’s Prosecutor General, Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud issued a ban on all media outlets and the Press Syndicate to ensure that there was no coverage of the case while the case was still pending. However, ‘Al-Dustor’ and ‘Al-Tariq’ newspaper still continued to report on the case. A source at the Egyptian judiciary is believed to have referred ‘Al-Dustor’ Managing Editor, Ibrahim Eissa, to public prosecutors for “breaking a ban on publishing” articles about the case.
Former Egyptian public prosecutor Rajaa al Arabi confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the ban was in the public’s interest and in the interest of the case. However, Egyptian MPs and lawyers Sobhi Saleh and legal advisor Fathi Ragab have argued that ‘full disclosure’ is the public’s right but pointed out that bans enforced on some cases are imposed to ensure that evidence is not tampered with.
Four journalists who had been arrested, from ‘Al-Tariq’ and ‘Al-Dustor’ newspapers were released yesterday. Sayed Abu Zeid, the Press Syndicate’s legal advisor who was also representing the four detainees stated that the articles had been published prior to the date in which the ban was enforced (the contentious dates are 7 and 11 August) and that thereafter the reporters had not flouted the ban.
Abu Zeid told Asharq Al-Awsat that the article stipulating a ban on publishing articles about the case violates the right to freedom of expression, which is a freedom that is guaranteed by our constitution, he said. He added that a ban on a murder case, such as the one that took place in Dubai is unwarranted and it was “as though it were a national security case”.
According to Sobhi, “Banning the publication of information and facts means that everyone is free to interpret things the way they like,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat, “because it conceals the truth and allows for violations whereas disclosure would stop rumors, speculations and lies in their tracks.”
He continued, “There are many murder cases are in progress in Egypt today, why haven’t they banned reporting on them too? Why does [Suzanne Tamim’s] case get special treatment?”
Ragab stated that the prosecution has found that making the case public would be detrimental to the evidence and that it may influence witness testimonies and was thus best kept covert. “The suspect has committed a crime abroad but must be tried in Egypt. This case has external and economic dimensions and could have an effect on the [Egyptian] stock market. I believe that this is the reason behind the ban,” he said.