The murder of Lebanese pop singer Suzanne Tamim in Dubai in July last and the recent arrest of an influential Egyptian businessman has riveted the attention of the Muslim world, revealing the brewing tensions in a largely conservative society.
The 30-year-old Tamim, famed for her striking green eyes, was found dead in her swanky apartment in July, with multiple stab wounds and a 20-centimeter (8 inch) slash across her throat. Her beautiful face had been mutilated beyond recognition, reports said.
This week Egyptian authorities arrested real estate mogul Hisham Talaat Moustafa, said to be Tamim's former lover.
The tycoon is a top ruling party official close to President Hosni Mubarak's powerful son, Gamal. In the past 10 years, he has become one of Egypt's top billionaires, the owner of luxury hotels and beach resorts and a leading force in building Western-style suburbs ringing Cairo for the upper-class.
But on Tuesday, Egypt's public prosecutor accused the tycoon of contracting for the singer's killing by paying $2 million to Mohsen el-Sukkary, a former Egyptian state security officer.
El-Sukkary worked at Cairo's Four Seasons Hotel, owned by Moustafa. The prosecutor said the tycoon helped facilitate visas and tickets for the security man as he trailed the singer first to London, then to Dubai.
The singer had moved to Dubai, friends say, to break off her relationship with Moustafa, who is married.
According to Dubai investigators, el-Sukkary stalked the singer the morning of July 28 to her apartment in the swanky Dubai Marina complex, overlooking the Persian Gulf and a harbor full of yachts.
CCTV videos, footages showed a man holding an envelope with the logo of the real estate company that brokered the sale of Suzannes JBR flat. The flat was in Suzanne's name but Egyptian media reported that Moustafa had paid for it.
The suspect had on two layers of clothes when he carried out the grisly murder. The suspect dumped the clothes he had on, on top, during the crime into the fire safety box on the 21st floor before leaving the building. He then proceeded to Dubai Airport and fled the country on a flight at 10.30am - airline unidentified.
The police control room received a call at 8.15pm on 28th July from Suzanne's cousin, a Lebanese, who had found her dead body.
"It took 12 minutes for the murderer to enter the building, kill the victim and leave," Maj. Gen. Khamis Mattar Al Mazeina of the Dubai police told a press conference.
El-Sukkary was arrested Aug. 6 in Egypt. Dubai police traveled to Cairo to present their evidence against him but then turned their attention to Moustafa.
To imagine only a little earlier the government had banned all reports of Moustafa's implication in the crime.
Egypt's Chief Prosecutor imposed the ban without explanations on Friday 8th August on news coverage of the brutal slaying of the Lebanese pop star, of course once the name of Moustafa started cropping up.
The editor of an Egyptian independent newspaper was questioned by police for violating the ban with a Sunday 9th August edition story on Suzanne's death, and barred distribution of the edition but the article remained on the paper's website.
In less than a month though, the police could bring itself to arrest Moustafa. Apparently he had become too much of an embarrassment to President Mubarak's regime.
The transcripts of alleged phone conversations kept by el-Sukkary and seized by police were leaked to the media. In one, Moustafa says "the agreed amount is ready" and tells the security man, "Tomorrow, she is in London and you should act."
In a later tape, el-Sukkary explains he missed his chance in London and "will wait to move it to Dubai." Moustafa chides him then says, "OK, let's finish with this."
The killing was an embarrassment to Dubai too. The boomtown has been trying to shed its reputation as an anything-goes corner of the conservative Muslim Gulf. The emirate has recently cracked down on tourists going topless on beaches, and has launched a public anti-corruption effort.
"There was serious pressure from the Gulf," said Abdel-Halim Qandil, editor-in-chief of the independent Sout Al-Umma newspaper and a frequent Mubarak critic.
There also has been growing discontent at home over the clout of businessmen who dominate the government, overshadowing even the military figures who long held the reins of power. Earlier this year, the millionaire owner of a ferry company was acquitted of negligence in the 2005 sinking of a Red Sea ferry that killed 1,000 people, angering many, AP reports.
Still Moustafa has come under harsh media glare now only thanks to the murder of Suzanne Tamim a. She had several hit-singles early in her career . Critics said her voice was equally suited to pop tunes and classical Arabic melodies, and she proved a sensation of sorts. Her last album was produced by production giant Alam ElPhan in 2002. Her last song, Lovers, recorded in 2006, was dedicated to the memory of the late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.
She became famous, but her career was marred by stories about a troubled private life. Soon afterwards, news of her divorce from her first husband Ali Muzannar flooded the media. She later married Lebanese impresario and producer, Adel Matouk, who became her manager.
The couple had met in Paris and gotten married about six years before. However, problems erupted less than eight months later when her husband asked her to stop singing and become a housewife, which she refused.
Immediately after they'd gotten divorced, she was thought to have fled from her home in Beirut to Egypt to escape from her estranged, and later divorced, husband and manager - after he had filed a series of lawsuits against her, including embezzlement, fraud, slander, libel, and theft: $350,000 from his safe - he also accused her of trying to murder him, after he had come under fire while driving his car in Lebanon in 2004.
Even prior to her marriages and divorces, Suzanne was known to have had problems and troubles with her father; and she had gone into hiding several times for several months for unexplained reasons - she had spent much of her short life between courts, police stations, and hideouts, wrote a blogger.
If Tamim's story is a tragedy resulting from the invasion of western values, the arrest of the dreaded Moustafa is an indication of the pressures even the repressive governments in Middle East are becoming subject to.
Obviously beyond a point, even the pliable mullahs, who readily whip up religious hysteria to shield the ruling cliques from the anger of vast impoverished masses, are ineffective.
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