Retrial for Egypt business tycoon set for April 26

Retrial for Egypt business tycoon set for April 26

CAIRO: The retrial for Hisham Talaat Mustafa, the Egyptian business tycoon already found guilty for his involvement in the murder of Lebanese pop star Suzanne Tamim and sentenced to death, will begin on April 26. The retrial comes as another Egyptian court said the conviction of the former ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) leader was flawed.

The retrial has many Egyptians frustrated and angered over the case, saying that Mustafa is only getting another trial because he is wealthy.

“What is this? He gets what he wants because the government doesn’t want to execute one of their own,” said Yehya Mahmoud, a manager at a local cafe in Cairo. He, like many others, were pleased with the original ruling, but believe corruption “is playing its dirty hand here to get a rich guy off.”

The retrial was ordered in March for the former chairman of Talaat Mustafa Group – a real estate and development company in the Middle East – and could take months before another verdict is handed down.

“Cairo Appeal Court … has set April 26 as the date for the retrial of Hesham Talaat Moustafa and [security guard] Muhsen el-Sukkari in front of a criminal court,” the court said.

On March 4, in ordering the retrial, the court said the original verdict had “mistakes in implementing the law” and that the original court failed to respond to core requests from the defense team.

“Every judge has a point of view but no one can disagree on the conviction that is very obvious, and supported by all the evidence presented in the case,” said Reda Ghoneim, the lawyer acting for the husband of Tamim, who was 30 when she died, in comments carried by Reuters.

The details of the killing are scary, worthy of a primetime murder mystery or horror show. According to the prosecution in the original trial, Mustafa hired Sokkari, a former Egyptian state security officer, to kill Tamim.

Prosecutor-General Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud described the crime as a “vengeful act.” Sukkari, who worked as a security officer at the Four Seasons Hotel in Sharm El Sheikh – a hotel built and partially owned by Mustafa’s Talaat Mustafa Group – was paid $2 million by Mustafa to carry out the murder.

Reports indicate that Tamim had ended a three-year affair with the businessman and had recently left Cairo for Dubai.

Sukkari was arrested less than two hours after the killing, when Dubai police followed him back to the hotel he was staying at. According to police reports, Sukkari claimed Tamim was already dead when he arrived at her apartment, but a shirt with the singer’s blood on it were enough evidence to arrest the Egyptian.

Shortly before the trial started last fall, Ali El Din Hilal, NDP secretary for media affairs, told Arab satellite television network Orbit that the indictment is clear evidence that “the ruling party knows no cronyism and that nobody in Egypt is above the law.”

Mustafa’s arrest, Hilal continued, reveals that a review of the relationship between big business and government is overdue.

“The lack of any legal framework regulating the relationship between wealth and power opens the door wide for corruption, conflicts of interest and cronyism.”

“They [the government] understand how important image abroad is and with Obama having come to Egypt, it is vital for Cairo to be seen as moving forward, even when the majority of the population continues to languish in horrific conditions.”

Human Rights groups have been critical of Egypt’s use of the death penalty. Last year, 24 people were sentenced to death in one decision and 11 Egyptians were also sentenced to death by hanging in a similar decision.

“It is something that needs to be looked at closely,” said Hafez Abu Saeda, the head of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), last year, “because throughout the world we have seen that the more people are put to death this increases the use of violence in society. Is this the Egypt we want?” Republished With Permission From Biky Masr