Egyptial real estate mogul Hisham Talaat Moustafa appeared in a court Saturday as the murder trial of Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim got underway in Cairo.
The Middle East singing sensation was found murdered in Dubai on July 28. Prosecutors allege that Moustafa, also a and also a member of the parliament from the ruling National Democratic party, paid former police officer Muhsen el Sukkari $2 million to kill Tamim. But both have denied the charges.
Security was tight, and reporters, relatives and friends lined up as early as 5 a.m. -- four hours before the hearing began -- to ensure a seat in the courtroom.
The judge listed and displayed evidence found by police at the crime scene in Dubai, United Arab Emirates: a T-shirt, a pocket-size knife, blood and a pair of pants. Moustafa and el Sukkari claim that the evidence could have been fabricated or tampered with by UAE authorities and should not be used against them.
The judge also listened to one of 13 witnesses before adjourning. More witnesses are scheduled to testify Sunday. The trial is expected to last six to seven months.
Moustafa's lawyer has told CNN that 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 not unusual for men -- such as Moustafa, a married father of three -- to take additional wives.
Prosecutors have said Tamim's death was a "means of taking revenge" but have not elaborated.
The tycoon's lawyers requested that their client be released on bail, saying his imprisonment endangered the well-being of the people who worked for him.
"This is very dangerous not only on the defendant but on his 11 companies ... and the 60,000 employees and workers who work for him," lawyer Hafiz Farhoud said.
But the judge refused the request to release Moustafa, the owner of luxury hotels and beach resorts in Egypt and a leading force in developing upscale Western-style suburbs around Cairo.
†Although Tamim was killed in the United Arab Emirates, the Egyptian judiciary is trying the case in Cairo because Egyptian law does not allow its citizens to be extradited for trials in other countries.
The case, with its high-profile victim and defendant, has mesmerized Egypt and the region.
After his arrest in September, Egyptian authorities indicted Moustafa, 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 heads up the company.