Not getting away with murder
The long awaited verdict has been announced -- death for business magnate Hisham Talaat Mustafa and former security officer Mohsen El-Sukkari for the killing of Lebanese pop singer Suzanne Tamim. Shaden Shehab
was in court as the verdict was read
"The court orders that the documents of the two defendants, Hisham Talaat Mustafa and Mohsen El-Sukkari, be referred to the Grand Mufti," said the judge as he made a historic ruling amidst the shock of all who were present at the Bab Al-Khalq criminal court on Thursday. The defendant's files were referred to the Grand Mufti for review, as is normal in death sentences in Egypt. The mufti is scheduled to make the ruling official on 25 June.
Billionaire business tycoon Mustafa was found guilty of conspiring to kill Lebanese pop singer Suzanne Tamim, and former State Security officer El-Sukkari was found guilty of committing the grisly murder.
The verdict, while it may have pleased the public, nevertheless stunned. Not only is Mustafa a multi-billionaire but was a member of the Policies Committee of the ruling National Democratic Party, deputy chairman of the Shura Council's Economic Committee, and is reputed to have been close to chairman of the NDP Policies Committee Gamal Mubarak. Seldom has someone so close to the echelons of power faced capital punishment since there is widespread belief in the country that the rich and powerful can literally get away with murder.
Tamim was murdered on 28 July in an exclusive residential compound in Dubai. El-Sukkari said Mustafa, the former chairman of the Talaat Mustafa Group, paid him $2 million for the contract killing. The billionaire property developer, a member of the Shura Council, was arrested on 2 September, following the lifting of his parliamentary immunity. The trial opened on 18 October last year amidst a media frenzy in Egypt and across the Middle East.
The evidence included tape recordings of telephone conversations between Mustafa and El-Sukkari, security video footage from the Dubai apartment and DNA from the bloodied clothes that El-Sukkari was accused of leaving close to the scene of the crime.
Mustafa is said to have taken out the contract on Tamim's life after she ended their three-year affair.
The prosecution had said El-Sukkari bought a knife, then headed to Tamim's apartment at the Jumeira Beach Residence complex. Disguised as a worker belonging to the apartment's service company he showed Tamim a false ID over the video intercom and she let him in. Once inside her flat he knocked her to the floor and slashed her throat. El-Sukkari then threw his bloodstained clothes in a trash can next to the fire escape below Tamim's apartment and left the building. Dubai police found little difficulty in collecting DNA samples from the abandoned clothes and pictures of El-Sukkari were captured on the building's CCTV cameras.
As the verdict was announced Mustafa had an expressionless look and did not utter a word while all hell broke loose around him in the jammed courtroom. Mustafa's two daughters burst into hysteric tears after the ruling and his sister passed out. Dozens of cameramen and journalists hurried towards the caged dock frantically shoving one other and jockeying for postion to get a comment from Mustafa, but more policemen surrounded Mustafa as we he was escorted out of the court. The pandemonium caused cameras to drop, people scream, and a few nearly faint.
El-Sukkari's relatives attacked journalists both verbally and physically. "Get out you bunch of worthless people that live by people's miseries," one of them said as he pushed a female journalist to the floor and punched a TV broadcaster. Policemen frantically ordered everyone to leave the courtroom immediately.
The ruling was announced at 9am but the media was present since dawn as were security officials of all ranks. Inside the courtroom security was tight and cell phones were not allowed. Journalists were searched three times before entering the courtroom, where Mustafa and El-Sukkari sat in two separate, caged docks.
The case, which had all elements of a soap opera ñ wealth, power and violence, may not be over. Mustafa's lawyer, Farid El-Deeb, announced his intention to contest the ruling.