Egyptian magnate pleads not guilty to singer’s murder

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egyptian construction magnate Hesham Talaat Moustafa and a former police officer pleaded not guilty to murder and incitement charges Saturday at their trial for the killing of Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim.

Moustafa, a member of parliament for the ruling National Democratic Party, is charged with paying security man Muhsen el-Sukkari $2 million for stabbing Tamim to death at her house in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on July 28.

The charge sheet said that Moustafa’s motive was revenge but it did not explain their relationship in detail.

In response to the charges, Moustafa told a packed courtroom in central Cairo: “It did not happen and I have presented all the evidence that I am not guilty.”

“God is enough for me and an excellent guardian,” he added, citing a Muslim invocation common in times of distress.

“It did not happen,” said Sukkari. “By Almighty God my blood is innocent of her.”

The two defendants appeared in metal cages in the courtroom, in line with normal Egyptian practice. Hundreds of policemen protected the streets around the building in case of trouble.

The arrest of Moustafa in September, after weeks of speculation about the case, hit the value of shares in Talaat Moustafa Group, the real estate development company which Moustafa’s late father created and which Moustafa chaired.

The shares fell to 4.86 pounds ($0.87) after the arrest, from a peak of 13.46 pounds in January. They have since fallen ever further, to 3.51 pounds earlier this month, but mainly because the market as a whole has slumped.

TAPE RECORDINGS

The indictment says Sukkari killed Tamim after tricking her into opening the door of her Dubai apartment by posing as a representative of the building owners.

“He then attacked her with the knife … cutting her main arteries and her trachea,” it said. “This was on the instigation of the second defendant (Moustafa) in return for obtaining from him the sum of $2 million for committing this crime.”

Egyptian media reports have said that Sukkari worked as a security officer at the Four Seasons Hotel in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, which the Talaat Moustafa Group built.

The indictment said Moustafa “took part through incitement, agreement and assistance with the first defendant (Sukkari) in killing the victim in revenge.”

“He provided him with special information and amounts of money necessary to plan and carry out the crime,” it said.

The evidence includes tape recordings of telephone calls between Moustafa and Sukkari, security video footage from the Dubai apartment and DNA from the bloodied clothes that Sukkari allegedly left close to the scene of the crime.

Moustafa, who was born in 1959, has given up the chairmanship of the Talaat Moustafa Group to his brother Tarek and has been stripped of the legal immunity he enjoyed as a member of the upper house of parliament.

Tamim, who was 30, rose to fame after winning the top prize in a television show in 1996. She married Lebanese impresario and producer Adel Matouk, who became her manager, but they later had an acrimonious divorce, media reports said.

The Egyptian judiciary is trying the case because Egyptian law does not allow the extradition of Egyptian citizens to face trial in other countries

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