x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Tycoon denies link to singer's killing

The Egyptian property magnate writes letter from prison saying coverage of the case has hurt his family.

The Lebanese singer Suzan Tamim was stabbed to death in her Dubai apartment in July.
The Lebanese singer Suzan Tamim was stabbed to death in her Dubai apartment in July.

CAIRO // The Egyptian billionaire accused of hiring a hitman to kill Suzan Tamim, the Lebanese singer found murdered in her Dubai apartment, has protested his innocence from his prison cell. Hisham Talaat Moustafa, a member of President Hosni Mubarak's ruling party, attacked those who, he claimed, sought to bring him down but said he was confident he would win back his freedom.

In a letter to the state-owned Akhbat el Youm, the 48-year-old said he prayed to God every night as he feels "suffocated and the walls of my cell are about to crush me." The letter was published yesterday, two days after the date for his trial was set for Oct 18. Moustafa, a property magnate and politician, is charged with paying a former police officer US$2 million (Dh7.34m) to kill Tamim at her flat in Dubai on July 28.

"I write from my cell in Tora prison feeling severe sadness and deep feelings of oppression," Moustafa said. "What makes things a bit easier during days and nights of holy month of Ramadan, is that I resort to reading the Quran. God's words give me strength to endure what I'm going through," he added. He claimed the coverage of the case had "been unfair" and that it was hurting his wife, who is standing by him, and three teenage sons.

"They sharpened their knives and are eating my flesh and tearing me apart while I'm alive," he said. "The most painful thing is that those sharp knives are hurting the person I love most in my life: my mother ... and my beloved wife, my life partner, who shared the good and bad in my life and my beloved sons. "How could I possibly throw all my success, which is a source of pride to me and Egypt, behind my back and destroy myself, my company, with such a rash act? Does it make sense that any sensible person would commit such a heinous crime?

"I lived all my life lofty, never thought that a day would come that my tears will win over me, but this is what happened to me. "Every night during Ramadan, when I feel suffocated and the walls of my cell are about to crush me, I pray to God to lift this severe injustice and to enlighten my heart with faith to put up with what I'm going through. "My father raised us to love our country, and work and produce for it, not to become criminals and killers.

The half-page letter expressed certainty that the Egyptian judiciary would "give me back my rights." Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian President, has promised that Moustafa and his co-accused will face true justice and has told Dubai Police that "no one is above the law". In the letter, Moustafa addressed his sons saying "raise up your heads and never put them down, your father will always be your source of pride, and the ideal, and those envious of my success will never be able to get at me. Trust in the purity of your father, don't be weak or sad, soon you'll be in my arms. I have nothing else to say except I put my issue in God's hands."

Tamim, 31, was found dead in the living room of her flat at the Jumeirah Beach Residence on July 28, hours after a late-night gathering. She had several knife wounds to her face and body. Mohsen el Sokari, 39, a former Egyptian police officer, has been charged with her murder. After launching her singing career in 1996, Tamim became as well-known for her private life as for her music. In 2005, she was questioned by Interpol in Egypt over claims that she stole US$350,000 from her estranged Lebanese husband, Adel Maatouk.

She also faced allegations in Egypt of being involved in a heroin-smuggling ring with her father, and was also accused, with her father and an Egyptian businessman, of trying to murder her then-husband. It recently emerged that months before her death, Tamim reported threats on her life to police in Britain, where she was living at the time. She is said to have been routinely harassed and subjected to telephone threats. Her body was returned to her homeland and buried in a Beirut mosque on Aug 4. Wael Abdel Fattah, an Egyptian columnist with the Egyptian opposition daily Al Destour and Lebanese daily Al Akhbar, said: "Moustafa's letter doesn't provide a single piece of information about his relationship with Tamin or el Sokari, or why he specifically was accused in this case. "The letter emphasises his image as oppressed and a victim, and reveals his state of shock and denial, after being the star of financial and society pages, to being the star of crime pages." nmagd@thenational.ae