CAIRO // Suzanne Tamim's father has denied being paid to drop civil charges against the Egyptian billionaire on trial for hiring her killer. Hesham Talaat Moustafa, 50, a senior member of Egypt's ruling party, was sentenced to hang last year along with Mohsen el Sokari, 41, the former Egyptian state security officer convicted of murdering the 30-year-old Lebanese singer in her Dubai apartment in July 2008. After an appeal, both men were granted a retrial, which began last month.
The latest twist in the case that has captivated Egypt came on Friday, when it was revealed that Tamim's father, mother and younger brother had dropped their civil charges against Moustafa, although the criminal trial continues. Speaking to The National from Lebanon, where he lives, Tamim's father Abdel Sattar Tamim said: "All the talk about me taking money from Hesham's family to drop charges against him is false. I didn't take a penny from Hesham's family. You can ask them. I dropped my civil charges against Hesham, but not the criminal, the butcher, Mohsen el Sokari.
"What's so evident for me now, like the sun shining in the middle of the sky, is that it's Mohsen el Sokari who killed my daughter." Reports first emerged last week in Lebanon that the Tamim family had dropped their civil charges against Moustafa, that the withdrawal was documented in the Lebanese justice ministry, and that the Cairo Criminal Court would be notified. Moustafa issued a statement on Sunday through his lawyers, Bahaa Abu Shouqa and his son Mohammed, confirming that the charges were being dropped but denying "any negotiations or settlement with Tamim's family".
Asked why he had decided to drop the civil charges, Mr Tamim said: "Because God wants. "I also want to add that I haven't seen anything from Hesham's family except good things. They keep saying may God bless her soul and make her live in Heaven. They never said a bad word about my daughter. "I don't know why all those maniacs are talking about money. The issue is not money. Not everything in life is about money, and I didn't take any. I don't want to go into details. Nobody came to us, and nobody took money.
"God willing, Mohsen will take the same punishment and the court will discover Hesham's innocence." However, Ashraf el Sokari, el Sokari's elder brother and an Egyptian army colonel, said: "Let's hope that Mr Tamim will wake up soon with the same conviction which made him decide suddenly that Hesham didn't incite for killing his daughter, that Mohsen didn't kill Suzanne as well. If Hesham didn't incite, so Mohsen didn't kill."
Mr Tamim's latest comments are different from the evidence he and his ex-wife, Thuraya al Zarif, gave to the court during the first murder trial in February last year. Both accused Moustafa of pursuing their daughter when she left him in late 2006 after refusing to marry him, and of eventually killing her. Mrs al Zarif said: "I don't know the first defendant Mohsen el Sokari, but I do know, very well, the second defendant Hesham Talaat Moustafa. I'm sure he is the man who instigated the first defendant Mohsen el Sokari to kill my daughter, because I lived and witnessed his abuse and threats against my daughter Suzanne."
In his evidence, Mr Tamim said: "Hesham Talaat Moustafa was chasing her and her family to persuade her to marry him. My daughter Suzanne was very worried about his threats and her heart was telling her that something bad will happen to her." Through his Lebanese and Egyptian lawyers, Mr Tamim sent to court a CD he said his daughter had given him to give to police in case something bad happened to her.
In the recordings heard in court, a voice said to be that of Suzanne was heard crying while talking to Moustafa's office manager, Abdel Khaleq Khoga, complaining to him of Hesham's threats against her. Mr Tamim's evidence was specifically mentioned in the reasoning of the guilty verdicts and death sentences at the end of the trial last May. After an appeal the two men were granted a retrial, with three new judges, which began in April and has been adjourned until June 26.
Suzanne Tamim had a complicated personal life. She married her first husband, Ali Mzanar, who is Lebanese, when she was 18, and against her family's will. The couple were divorced in 2002, after Tamim won a singing contest. She moved to Paris, where she met her second Lebanese husband, Adel Maatouq, who is said to have paid her first husband to finalise divorce proceedings. Later she fled to Cairo, after Mr Maatouq hit her and tried to ban her from singing. She met Moustafa in 2004, and he in turn paid Mr Maatouq to complete his divorce papers. Moustafa denies that he married her.
The singer left Moustafa in late 2006, this time moving to London, where she met the Iraqi-British kickboxer Riyadh el Azzawi, with whom she bought the Dubai apartment in which she was murdered. He claims still to be her husband. Speaking to The National, Tamim's father complained bitterly about the men who claim to have been involved with his daughter, "who are still using my daughter even after her death. They seem to be multiplying like chicks. I'm sick and tired of those men. I just want to put an end to this farce."