CAIRO (AFP) – A Cairo court sentenced an Egyptian tycoon and a former policeman to death for the murder in Dubai last year of the businessman’s former lover, Lebanese pop diva Suzanne Tamim.
The judge ordered Hisham Talaat Mustafa and retired policeman Mohsen al-Sukkari hanged for respectively ordering and carrying out the brutal slaying of the singer in a luxury Dubai apartment in July.
Mustafa, a stalwart of Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party, was found guilty of paying Sukkari two million dollars to cut the throat of his former lover Tamim, 30, at the flat they had bought together shortly before.
Chaos erupted in the packed courtroom after the judge read out a short statement and ordered the men’s sentences referred to the mufti for confirmation. The men also have the right to appeal.
Sukkari’s face went pale and family members burst into tears as the sentence was read out, ending a case whose mix of wealth, show business and politics has gripped Egypt, where powerful businessmen are rarely seen to face justice.
Scuffles erupted inside and outside the tense courtroom as the guilty men, who sat through the case in a divided cage, were taken away.
Mustafa ordered the killing after Tamim, who had previously married two men in the music business, tied the knot with Iraqi kick-boxing champion Riyad al-Azzawi whom she met at London’s renowned Harrods department store.
Sukkari followed her to Dubai to stake out Tamim’s flat. He then bought a knife, went to apartment saying he worked for the building owner and killed her when she opened the door.
Mustafa, 49, was arrested in September and had his immunity lifted as member of the Shura Council, Egypt’s upper house of parliament. Media reports have said he offered Tamim 50 million dollars to marry him.
He ran the Talaat Mustafa Group real estate conglomerate that is worth several billion dollars, and is said to be close to President Hosni Mubarak’s son and heir apparent, Gamal.
Talaat Mustafa Group appointed Tarek Talaat Mustafa, Hisham’s brother, chairman of the board and chief executive officer following his arrest.
Tamim’s life had been marred by domestic disputes, including a rocky marriage with her second husband and agent who had accused her in 2004 of being behind an attempt on his life.
Egyptian media said Tamim had a relationship with Mustafa over a three-year period that ended several months before her death.
Sukkari, who worked as head of security at one of Mustafa’s hotels, was arrested after Dubai police found his footprint, tracked down the shop where he bought his shoes and identified him through his credit card.
Dubai authorities informed Egyptian police who arrested Sukkari aboard a ship off the Egyptian coast.
The judge imposed a media blackout on the case after Mustafa’s defence team published a book, reportedly by the tycoon himself, proclaiming his innocence.
Five journalists and editors were fined 10,000 pounds each for defying the gag order.
Ahead of the blackout, state media reported that Sukkari said Mustafa asked for Tamim’s severed head to be delivered before he would pay for the killing.