The murder case of Lebanese pop star Suzanne Tamim has left the country in an extraordinary state of suspense. Initially portrayed as a passionate love story that led to murder, the drama soon became more complicated as the victim’s father and three husbands jumped into the fray. The supposedly sacred father-daughter and husband-wife relationships were soon undermined as the murder ignited a fight over the pop star’s inheritance.
The political dimension of the tragedy–represented in real estate tycoon and murder convict Hisham Talaat Moustafa’s close links to Egypt’s top-level decision makers–captured public attention more than anything else, increasingly so after the media’s intense coverage of the legal proceedings against Moustafa’s unlawful Madinaty contract. The public soon felt they were following a case where the regime was putting itself on trial.
Last week, a Cairo appeals court sentenced Talaat Moustafa to 15 years in prison and his accomplice, ex-police officer Mohsen al-Sokkari, to life, overturning an earlier death sentence for the two men. Many, including the defense lawyers, were astonished by the sudden ruling, which was issued unexpectedly before all the testimonies were complete. Others were perplexed by the decision for political reasons. It exposed, once again, the alliance between big money and political power and renewed doubts over the independence of the Egyptian judiciary.
Still others find the new ruling illogical and discriminatory as it imposes a harsher penalty on al-Sokkari even though he was just an abettor to the crime.
Shocking as this new verdict may seem, it is not the first time that political considerations trump due process. The department which issued the ruling has a long history of delivering politicized verdicts. It gave Magdi Ahmed Hussein, leader of the Islamist Labor Party, a prison sentence in 1999, and jailed Saad Eddin Ibrahim over charges of espionage, of which he was later acquitted by the Court of Cassation.
The story is far from over. After narrowly escaping a death sentence, Talaat Moustafa will definitely seek an acquittal. And the public will remain in suspense for a little while longer.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.