CAIRO // The political and legal repercussions of the death sentences passed on two Egyptian men, one a senior political figure, convicted of killing the Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim last summer in Dubai are still reverberating 10 days after the decision. Hisham Talaat Moustafa, 49, a businessman and senior member of Egypt's ruling party, and Mohsen el Sokari, 40, a former state security officer, were condemned on May 21 by a panel of three judges headed by Mohammadi Qonsowa.
Moustafa was convicted of paying el Sokari £20,000 (Dh119,000) to murder Ms Tamim in London. El Sokari failed on that attempt but subsequently followed Ms Tamim to Dubai, killing her in her apartment in Jumeirah Beach Residence on July 28, in exchange for $2m from Moustafa. Egyptian dailies and weeklies are still writing about the verdict on their front pages, and yesterday one of the defence team was forced to express his respect for the judgment after he was accused of insulting the court in the wake of the sentence.
Farid el Deeb, Moustafa's chief defence lawyer, said he was "very sorry for the unfair campaign against me" in which he was accused of insulting the judge. In a statement published in the state owned weekly, Akhbar el Yom, he said: "My words were taken out of context and I wasn't given the chance to clarify." During an appearance on Egyptian television last Saturday, Mr el Deeb appeared to cast doubt on the integrity of Judge Qonsowa, claiming he was the neighbour of one of the prosecution lawyers.
As a result of Mr el Deeb's comments, the head of the social justice political party, Mohammed Abdel Al, yesterday announced he was filing an action against the lawyer for insulting the judge. "Judges are God's voice on earth, and they our last hope; no one should try to tarnish their image for any reason or interest," Mr Abdel Al said at a press conference. "People can discuss and criticise the verdicts, but not the judges who issued them."
Judge Qonsowa, in his sixties and head of Cairo Criminal Court, is known as a tough judge with an impeccable reputation. The general prosecutor's office has confirmed it will investigate Mr el Deeb's remark. The convicted men remain in custody where they have been since they were arrested: el Sokari on Aug 6, and Moustafa on Sept 2. The trial opened on Oct 18, and Judge Qonsowa banned reporting of the proceedings during the final five months.
The judge has set June 25 for his final decision on the death sentence, after hearing the views of the mufti, one of Egypt's top clerics. This is a formality; the mufti's opinion is advisory, and he rarely disagrees with death sentences, which are carried out by hanging. After that, the judges have up to 60 days to give written reasons for their verdict. The defence teams may appeal on procedural matters or points of law. If the Appeals Court accepts an appeal, a retrial will start with a new set of judges.