x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Death sentences for killing Tamim

Egyptian property tycoon and a former state security officer are sentenced to death for the murder of Suzanne Tamim in Dubai.

CAIRO // An Egyptian property tycoon and a former state security officer were sentenced to death on Thursday after being convicted of the murder last summer of the Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim in her Dubai Marina apartment. The verdicts handed down to Hisham Talaat Moustafa, the former chairman of the Talaat Moustafa Group, who masterminded the killing, and Moshen el Sokari, the former state security officer who carried it out, now go before Egypt's Grand Mufti, Ali Gomaa, for ratification on June 25. Judge Mohammadi Qonsowa, passed the sentence in a packed Cairo Criminal Court, bringing to an end a trial that had gripped the Arab world for seven months. "After reading the papers of the case carefully, and the criminal code, the court decided to send their papers to the mufti for his opinion, and set the verdict for June 25," said Judge Qonsowa, chief of the three-judge panel that heard the case. Moustafa, 49, is a member of both the ruling National Democratic Party and Shura Council, the upper house of parliament, and is close to President Hosni Mubarak's family. He was charged with inciting el Sokari, 40, to kill Tamim, apparently after the singer refused to marry him. Tamim, who was 30 when she died, had risen to fame after winning a television talent show 13 years ago. Her relationship with Moustafa ended in 2007, and she later left Cairo and began dating Riyadh al Azzawi, an Iraqi-British kickboxer with whom she had intended to live in Dubai. Her body was found with stab wounds in a pool of blood in the entrance to their apartment in Jumeirah Beach Residence on July 28. Major Gen Khamis al Mazeina, Deputy Chief of Dubai Police, said the verdict did not come as a surprise as Dubai authorities had continuously maintained their belief in the Egyptian legal system. Talking about el Sokari, he said: "Our confidence in the Egyptian judicial system was always high. This individual has committed a crime which he needs to pay for. It is a standard process to follow. He is a man guilty of murder." Dubai Police had identified el Sokari as the prime suspect days after the killing, and determined that he had fled to Cairo. A string of evidence was subsequently submitted to the Egyptian authorities, who then arrested him. Further investigation pointed to Moustafa as the mastermind behind the killing. "In today's world, security forces across the globe are linked together and co-ordinate with one another to catch all types of criminals," Gen al Mazeina said. "The world has become more like a village. No criminal can think that committing a crime in one country and running to another would save him from facing justice." A number of Dubai Police officers attended the court in Egypt to present their evidence, which included the instrument used in the murder, a pocket-sized knife that el Sokari purchased from a mall in Dubai. The defendants had been on trial since October 18 and remained in custody throughout. They arrived in the courtroom around 7am yesterday and began reading small copies of the Quran they had brought with them. El Sokari was carrying praying beads, and Moustafa a cane. Both men had pleaded not guilty. After the verdict was delivered and the sentence passed, the convicted men were whisked from their cages and out of the courtroom, which had by then descended into chaos, with frightened journalists trying to protect themselves. Police in the courtroom intervened to return order. Judge Qonsowa was surrounded by six armed bodyguards as he read the verdict in less than five minutes, and left immediately afterwards amid screaming relatives and supporters of the defendants. The judge referred the case to the Grand Mufti, a formality in death sentences. Rather than assess the legalities of the case, the mufti will review a medical report simply to make sure the defendants are not suffering from an illness from which they would die anyhow. Once the mufti has ratified the verdict, the judicial panel must submit its legal reasoning behind the verdict within a month. After that, lawyers may contest the reasoning in an appeal court, a process that can take six months. If the verdict is overturned, a new trial would start with three different judges. If accepted, the convicted men presumably would be hanged. nmagd@thenational.ae