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'Premature' police work cited in decision to order Tamim murder retrial

Inconsistent and questionable investigative practices prompted Egyptian appeals court to reopen case of singer Suzanne Tamim's killing at her Dubai apartment.

CAIRO // Premature police work "nullifies" much of the case against two men convicted of killing Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim in Dubai, and is partly the reason they were granted an appeal, the Cassation Court said yesterday. The court, which granted a new trial on March 4, explained its decision in a 26-page document. Neither the trial date nor a new three-judge panel has been announced.

Hesham Talaat Moustafa, 50, an Egyptian property tycoon and a senior member of the ruling National Democratic Party, and Mohsen el Sokari, 41, a former state security officer, were convicted of killing Tamim in July 2008. The 30-year-old singer was found with her throat cut at her Jumeirah Beach Residence flat. Moustafa was convicted of paying el Sokari US$2 million (Dh7.3m) to kill Tamim, with whom Moustafa was romantically involved.

Egypt had initiated an investigation in the case and questioned el Sokari on August 6 2008, before an official request from the UAE came on August 29. This "nullifies all the investigations between these two dates", the court said. The two countries have signed a legal and judicial co-operation agreement, but citizens must be tried in their native country, not where the crime was committed. Investigations and a demand for arrest must be carried out through diplomatic means, accompanied by evidence from the country where the crime was committed. In this case, such processes did not occur until August 29.

On August 5, the Emirati Interpol faxed its Egyptian equivalent a copy of el Sokari's passport and requested information about him in connection with Tamim's death. Egyptian police arrested el Sokari at dawn on August 6, and the prosecution questioned him right away. El Sokari had no lawyer present, another factor cited in favour of a new trial. The court also said that the prosecutor general should not have put Moustafa's name on the watch list for arrival or travel to Egypt from August 6, saying at that point it was "illegal". Moustafa's immunity was not dropped until August 25.

Moustafa is an appointed member of the Shura Council, the upper chamber of Egypt's parliament. The court papers said that the five conversations with Moustafa via mobile phone that el Sokari had recorded without Moustafa's knowledge should not be considered as evidence. The appeals court also said that the criminal court should have taken into account repeated objections by the accused's lawyers regarding a timing discrepancy of three to four minutes between surveillance cameras at the victim's building and el Sokari's hotel. The prosecution alleged that the crime was committed in 12 minutes.

It also said that the criminal court should have insisted on getting the entire surveillance tape from the day of the crime, not just clips, chosen by Dubai Police, of el Sokari leaving his hotel and entering Tamim's building the morning that she was killed. @Email:nmagd@thenational.ae

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