CAIRO (Reuters) – Egyptian property tycoon Hesham Talaat Moustafa began his retrial on Monday, fighting charges of orchestrating the brutal murder of a Lebanese pop singer.
Moustafa, a member of parliament in Egypt’s ruling party and former chairman of Talaat Moustafa Group, was granted a retrial in March. He was sentenced last year to hang along with Muhsen el-Sukkari, the security man whom the tycoon is charged with paying to stab Suzanne Tamim to death in Dubai.
Convicting an influential member of Egypt’s business elite caused ripples across the Arab world and came as a surprise to many in Egypt, where such business leaders are often regarded as above the law.
Sukkari and Moustafa, who was arrested just months after Tamim’s murder in July 2008, attended the session.
“It didn’t happen. None of that happened, sir,” Moustafa told the court from inside a cage where both defendants were held for the hearing, the usual practice in criminal courts.
“I swear by God the Great that I didn’t commit any of that,” Sukkari said in response to the judge.
Media described the murder as an act of revenge after Tamim ended an extramarital affair with Moustafa, born in 1959.
If found guilty, Moustafa and Sukkari will be allowed to appeal the new ruling and could face a third and final trial if that appeal is accepted, said Judge Ahmed Mekky, who was involved in the initial appeal process.
Moustafa handed over the chairmanship of property firm Talaat Moustafa Group to his brother Tarek after he was charged.
The retrial was granted on the grounds of legal errors and after the original court was found to have failed to respond to defence requests.