It’s a case of sex , power and murder involving an Egyptian real-estate tycoon, an ex-police officer and a Lebanese pop star.
Hisham Talaat Mustafa was a man who had it all: money, close ties to the son of the president, a prominent position within Egypt’s ruling party and a seat in parliament. Some say he was made by the system.
Suzane Tamim was a rising star who had been involved with Mustafa before moving to Dubai. Nobody really knows what happened between the two after their affair ended, but something pushed Mustafa over the edge so much that he devised a plot to kill her.
Mustafa called on the services of Mohsen Sokkari, an ex-police officer who worked for him, investigations showed lured by the prospect of $2 million as compensation, Sokkari travelled to Dubai and stabbed Suzane Tamim to death.
It was nearly the perfect plan if it weren’t for the notorious Dubai CCTV cameras which caught Sokkari going in and out of the luxurious Dubai building.
Soon it all unravelled. Sokkari confessed and revealed that he was acting on behalf of Hisham Talaat Mustafa. It was a shock that was even felt on the stock exchange market, with shares dropping and picking up at every twist of the story.
Now all eyes were on the government, Egyptians assumed that Mustafa would go unpunished because of his connections. But when the judge sentenced both to death by hanging in May 2009, many Egyptians were surprised and confused. Is there really one rule of law for everyone in Egypt?
But their doubts were put to rest on Tuesday when in an unexpected move, the judge presiding over the appeal case, reduced Mustafa’s sentence to 15 years and Sokkari’s to life imprisonment. It came as a surprise even to the defence team. The appeals hearings had started last week and on Tuesday, the judge was supposed to hear from several witnesses, including some who had travelled from Dubai to testify. He did not even listen to the defence summation.
One of the reasons that had been given to explain the judge’s swift sentencing is that allegedly Suzane Tamim’s family had dropped their civil claim in return of a hefty compensation. Had they not, according to a legal expert, the death sentence would have stayed.
The judge has 30 days to make public his reasoning and explain why Mustafa and Sokkari got different sentences when they initially had been given the same punishment. One expert told us, that according to Egyptian law, inciting a murder equals commiting the murder.
We were interviewing someone else when the verdict came out. He told me: “Now I recognise Egypt!” and went on adding “This is the first step towards his release”.
It’s a statement that has been reflected in the press today. “Saved from hanging” said Al-Shorouk while Al-Destour claimed “Hisham Talaat will be out of jail soon, either by presidential pardon or for health reasons.”