Nemesis seems to be catching up with Hisham Talaat Mustafa, the well-connected Egyptian developer. He has been sentenced to death in Cairo for ordering the murder of Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim. Also to hang is the actual assassin, Mohsen el-Sukkary.
On Thursday Mustafa was found guilty of involvement in the murder through "incitement, agreement and assistance." He was charged with paying the hit man $2 million for the job.
AdvertisementThe 30-year-old Tamim, famed for her striking green eyes, was found dead in her swanky apartment in Dubai in July last year, with multiple stab wounds and a 20-centimeter (8 inch) slash across her throat. Her beautiful face had been mutilated beyond recognition, reports said.
Tamim rose to prominence after winning a TV talent show in Lebanon in 1996, but legal battles with her estranged second husband, a music producer, hurt her career.
Around the time she developed an affair with Mustafa, a married man with graying hair and a dark mustache. He dated her for three years, the couple meeting in hotels and apartments in London, Dubai and Cairo. But the affair broke off for reasons not clear, and soon followed Tamim's murder.
Police say Sukkari, a former Egyptian security officer was doing a stint with Mustafa when he murdered Tamim. He entered her flat in Dubai on July 28, 2008, by posing as a representative of the building's owners. He slit her throat and fled, leaving his bloody clothes behind and his picture on a surveillance camera. He was quickly arrested and implicated Mustafa, whose conversations with Sukkari about the slaying were also caught on state security eavesdropping tapes.
The case has fascinated the media across the Middle East. Egypt's prosecutor-general, Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, had newspapers confiscated from kiosks and ordered a ban on publishing stories as the police investigation pointed toward Mustafa.
But then Mustafa was the richest man of Egypt, owning luxury hotels and beach resorts. More important he was also a functionary of the ruling National Democratic Party and close to President Hosni Mubarak's powerful son Gamal.
Still all that clout came to naught in the face of pressures from the Dubai authorities, and eventually the real estate moghul was arrested in Septmber.
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.
"I am definitely sad because today's decision shows that the court is moving in a particular direction," said Mustafa's lawyer, Farid Deeb. He added that his client, who sat in a defendant's cage during today's brief hearing, was also entitled to an appeal before Egypt's highest court.
The verdict may be a sign to businessmen "that nobody is above the law," said Hassan Nafae, a writer and political commentator. "It may deter some arrogant businessmen who thought there were no political or legal constraints on their ambitions as well as their sexual desires."
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