CAIRO: The Cairo South Criminal Court on Thursday sentenced construction mogul Hisham Talaat Moustafa to death in the high profile murder case of Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim.
Former police officer Mohsen Al-Sukkari was also convicted and received the death penalty for carrying out the murder at the behest of Moustafa, who was romantically linked with the singer in the past.
Samir Al-Shishtawy, one of Moustafa’s lawyers, deemed the verdict “cruel and unconstitutional, saying that he will appeal the verdict and is confident it would be overturned.
“We highly respect the Egyptian judiciary system but it is also our right as defense lawyers to contest this verdict, he added.
Immediately after the verdict was announced, chaos ensued as relatives of the convicted men clashed with lawyers and reporters.
Reporters also clashed with security officials outside the courtroom.
Some of their family members also fainted upon hearing the verdict and had to be carried outside the courtroom.
Al-Sukkari also reportedly fainted when he heard the verdict. Sukkari, who had read from a copy of the Quran, and pensively smoked a cigarette before the judge entered the court, trembled and turned pale after the verdict was read out.
The court announced it will refer their files to Egypt’s Grand Mufti to approve the verdict, a common practice by Egyptian courts in death penalty verdicts.
The court will issue its final verdict on June 25 after the Grand Mufti’s approval. The defendants can appeal the ruling within 60 days of the Mufti’s decision effectively after June 25, a date set by the judge.
Last July, Tamim was found murdered in her Dubai apartment, where she was stabbed several times and had her throat slit.
It was police authorities in Dubai who identified Al-Sukkari and he was arrested an hour and a half after landing in Cairo on the same day of the murder. They identified him using footage from the building’s security cameras and found a change of clothes caked with blood outside the building.
Moustafa was taken into custody in September.
In Tamim’s Aisha Bakkar middle-class Muslim district of Beirut, a picture of the slain singer still hangs above the door of the family’s ground floor residence.
Najib Liyan, who identified himself as the family s lawyer, told Associated Press Television News he was grateful for the verdict.
We had no doubt about justice, Liyan said. Still, he added, no one can be happy about death, whether it is a crime or a death sentence.
Abdel Sattar Tamim, the slain singer s father, told AFP in Beirut that the family was satisfied with the verdict and was now awaiting the final ruling by the mufti.
We have full faith in the Egyptian judicial system and we are awaiting the final ruling, he told AFP. The family is all gathered and we are following this closely.
We are also in close contact with the attorneys in Cairo.
Egypt declined to extradite Moustafa to the United Arab Emirates, insisting he be tried at home in a move initially read by many Egyptians as opening the door for the construction mogul to skate with a symbolic sentence.
The murder instigated a media frenzy given that Moustafa was then the chairman of construction company Talaat Moustafa Group. He is also a member of the policies secretariat of the National Democratic Party.
Moustafa was also appointed the head of the Shoura Council’s housing committee.
Mohamed Shawki Al-Sayed, Shoura Council member affiliated with the NDP, told Daily News Egypt that the Shoura council did not issue an official statement following the verdict.
“The verdict is not final yet. The final verdict will be heard on June 25, and until then Moustafa is still a member in the Shoura Council, he added.
A press ban on the case instituted by the presiding judge Al-Mohammedi Qunsua came shortly after the trial began disallowing journalists from reporting on details of events inside the courtroom; however journalists were allowed to attend the sessions.
Five journalists from Al-Masry Al-Youm and Al-Wafd newspapers were fined LE 10,000 each in February for violating the publishing ban in place over the murder trial.
From his cell in one of Egypt s largest prisons, Moustafa wrote in a letter published last September in Akhbar al-Youm newspaper, saying that enemies of success were fabricating a case against him.
Knives have been sharpened, tearing at my flesh, Moustafa wrote. But these lies will not be able to move the great pyramids I have constructed in the Egyptian economy. – With agencies