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Egypt mogul gets jail instead of death for pop star murder

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09/28/2010 07:10 PM
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Egypt mogul gets jail instead of death for pop star murder
Hisham Talaat Moustafa sentenced to 15 years for murder of Lebanon's Suzanne Tamim.

CAIRO â Suzanne Tamim shot to fame in an "American Idol"-style TV show, a green-eyed Lebanese beauty whose pop songs about love's agony mirrored her troubled life.

Now, the man reported to be her secret lover _ a married, politically powerful Egyptian tycoon _ has been sentenced to hang for paying a former government security agent $2 million to slit her throat, a murder almost as clumsy as it was horrific.

By Ines Bel Aiba - CAIRO

Egyptian property mogul Hisham Talaat Moustafa was jailed Tuesday for 15 years for the murder of a Lebanese pop star and ex-lover, 16 months after he was sentenced to death for the slaying.

"Hisham Talaat Moustafa was sentenced to 15 years in jail and (his associate Mohsen) al-Sukkari to 25 years for the murder of Suzanne Tamim," state television said in a report.

A judicial source said Sukkari was also sentenced to three extra years in jail for possession of an illegal weapon.

Lawyers for the pair said they were set to appeal Tuesday's verdict, which they insisted was unexpected.

Tamim, who rose to fame in the Arab music industry after winning a popular talent show in 1996, was stabbed several times and her throat cut at a Dubai luxury apartment in July 2008. She was 30.

Moustafa and Sukkari had been sentenced in May 2009 to hang for the murder but, in March, an appeals court overturned the convictions on procedural grounds and ordered a retrial.

Moustafa was an associate of President Hosni Mubarak's son, Gamal, and sat on the ruling party's policies committee.

At the first trial, he was accused of having paid Sukkari, a retired ex-policeman, two million dollars (1.5 million euros) to kill the singer.

The death sentence shocked Egypt, particularly since it targeted a prominent businessman who was close to Gamal Mubarak, 46, who is widely seen as succeeding his father in polls due next year.

The new verdict follows a government decision to accept a court ruling scrapping a land deal with the Talaat Moustafa Group -- Egypt's flagship real estate developers.

But the government said it would draw up a new contract with TMG, with cabinet ministers insisting the massive town project known as Madinaty -- which is already under construction -- is in the public interest.

Sunday's government decision was taken after a court upheld a ruling which declared as illegal the purchase by TMG of 8,000 acres of desert land to build a new city because the property was not open to public auction.

The court ruling saw TMG shares dip last week before making a recovery, sparking fears other huge real estate projects could face similar suits.

Tuesday's verdict sent TMG shares up by more than five percent, the official MENA news agency reported.

Meanwhile, defence lawyers complained the judge was too quick to hand down the verdict.

"We had expected the judge to summon witnesses (on Tuesday). Instead he read the verdict" after having heard two coroners, Atef al-Manawy, who represented Sukkari, told AFP.

A judicial source also told AFP that Tuesday's hearing was expected to hear more witnesses and the defence's closing remarks.

But Judge Adel Abdelsalam Gomaa insisted the court was empowered to issue a verdict because the defence had already made its closing remarks at the previous hearing, the judicial source said.

The judge issued a reduced sentence for Moustafa because a "diyya" -- blood money -- had been paid to the family of the victim, the judicial source said without giving details on the amount.

In May, Tamim's family dropped a suit against Moustafa and Sukkari for killing the pop singer, in which they had accused the real estate mogul of "inciting" the singer's murder and had asked for justice to be done.

Moustafa's implication in the murder made headlines in Egypt, where the strong and mighty are rarely dragged before the courts.

[link to www.middle-east-online.com]