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Tycoon enters not guilty plea in pop star's murder

Latest update : 2008-10-19

Egyptian construction magnate Hesham Talaat Moustafa and a former police officer have pleaded not guilty to charges of murdering the Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim. Their trial started in Cairo on Saturday.

Egyptian tycoon Hisham Talaat Mustafa and an ex-policeman who was his alleged accomplice pleaded not guilty on Saturday to involvement in the brutal slaying of the Lebanese pop singer who jilted him.
  
Mustafa, a stalwart of Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party, is charged with paying retired policeman Mohsen al-Sukkari two million dollars to kill Suzanne Tamim, 30, whose throat was cut in a luxury Dubai apartment in July.
  
"God is sufficient for me, and the best trustee of affairs," Mustafa told the packed Cairo courtroom, wearing white and sitting next to Sukkari inside a cage, as is usual in Egyptian courts. "I'm innocent."
  
Sukkari, who was detained in Dubai shortly after the killing, said, "I didn't do it."
  
In September, however, prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmud said Sukkari confessed to Mustafa's involvement in the case.
  
The downtown Cairo court was surrounded by a heavy security presence for the hearing.
  
The case, with its mix of wealth, show business and politics and in which the two men could face the death penalty, has gripped Egypt where powerful businessmen are rarely seen to face justice.
  
Mustafa allegedly paid Sukkari to go to Dubai and stake out Tamim's flat. Sukkari is then said to have bought a knife, gone to her flat saying he worked for the building owner and killed her when she opened the door.
  
Mustafa, 49, was arrested in September and had his immunity lifted as member of the Shura Council, Egypt's upper house of parliament. Media reports have said he offered Tamim 50 million dollars to marry him.
  
He ran the Talaat Mustafa Group real estate conglomerate that is worth several billion dollars, and is said to be close to President Hosni Mubarak's son and heir apparent, Gamal.
  
Talaat Mustafa Group appointed Tarek Talaat Mustafa, Hisham's brother, chairman of the board and chief executive officer following his arrest.
  
Egyptian authorities ordered a freeze on reporting the case in August, after media said an unidentified "important Egyptian figure" was involved in the murder, but this was later rescinded.
  
Tamim's life had been marred by domestic disputes, including a rocky marriage with her second husband and agent who had accused her in 2004 of being behind an attempt on his life.
  
Egyptian media said Tamim had a relationship with Mustafa over a three-year period that ended several months before her death.
  
She had reportedly previously married two men, both in the music business, before tying the knot with Iraqi kick boxing champion Riyad al-Azzawi whom she met at London's renowned Harrods department store.
  
The couple reportedly bought the luxury Dubai apartment together shortly before Tamim was murdered.
  
Azzawi told Britain's Sunday Times newspaper that he had told British police that his wife was receiving threats and that the singer was "afraid for her life saying that she would die by the hands of a 'professional killer'."
  
The next trial hearing is set for November 15.

Date created : 2008-10-18

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