Death sentence for Egypt tycoon over singer's murder

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A prominent Egyptian real state mogul and lawmaker was found guilty and sentenced to death today by an Egyptian court for ordering the slaying of Lebanese pop star Suzanne Tamim, a case that sparked a media frenzy in a country where the elite is often perceived as above the law.

Hisham Talaat Moustafa, who is close to President Hosni Mubarak's eldest son, Gamal, was accused of paying a former Egyptian police officer $2 million to kill Tamim in Dubai. Authorities say Moustafa and Tamim were lovers.

The former officer, Mohsen el-Sukkary, was also sentenced to death Thursday in a court session that quickly descended into chaos. Police and Moustafa's relatives clashed with reporters after the verdict was read, smashing cameras to prevent photographers from capturing the former Talaat Moustafo Group chairman's reaction.

Both men had pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Moustafa's two daughters burst into tears after the verdict, and his sister fainted.

Sameer el-Shishtawi, one of Moustafa's lawyers, said he will appeal, and said he was confident the verdict would be overturned.

Tamim's murder was the stuff of tabloid headlines across the Middle East, a story of a jilted lover who hired a thug to murder a beautiful diva.

Authorities maintain Moustafa paid el-Sukkary, a former State Security officer who worked for the tycoon at one of the Four Seasons hotels he owned in Egypt, to kill Tamim while she was staying in a luxury hotel in Dubai. El-Sukkary was captured on video at the hotel, and the knife he used was quickly found.

Following his arrest, Moustafa was stripped of his parliamentary immunity.

The move, and the subsequent trial, captivated Egyptians who had long seen such moguls as untouchables, a privileged elite whose wealth and influence placed them above the law.

In Tamim's Aisha Bakkar middle-class Muslim district of Beirut, a picture of the slain singer hung above the door of the family's ground floor residence.

Najib Liyan, a man who identified himself as the family's lawyer, told APTN he was "grateful for the verdict."

"We had no doubt about justice," Liyan said. Still, he added, "no one can be happy about death, whether it is a crime or a death sentence."