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Egypt tycoon gets death over diva killing

A BILLIONAIRE Egyptian real state mogul and lawmaker was sentenced to death yesterday by a Cairo court for ordering the slaying of Lebanese pop star Suzanne Tamim.

Hisham Talaat Moustafa, a member of the ruling National Democratic Party who is close to President Hosni Mubarak's youngest son Gamal, was accused of paying a former Egyptian police officer US$2 million to kill Tamim in Dubai.

Moustafa, who is married, and Tamim, who was 30 at the time of her death last July, were lovers before the relationship soured.

Former police officer Mohsen el-Sukkary, was also sentenced to death in a court session that turned chaotic with police and Moustafa's relatives clashing with reporters.

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

"This verdict is cruel," said one of Moustafa's lawyers, Sameer el-Shishtawi. He said he would appeal and was confident the verdict would be overturned.

Both men had pleaded not guilty.

Tamim's murder and leaked images of her dead body, her throat slashed, made tabloid headlines across the Middle East.

Media frenzy prompted the judge to impose a gag order and to close most of the 27 trial sessions to the public.

Authorities say 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 apartment in Dubai. Her friends have said she moved to London then Dubai after ending the relationship with Moustafa.

Najib Liyan, who identified himself as the Tamim family's lawyer, said he was "grateful for the verdict."

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

Over the past decade, Moustafa became one of Egypt's wealthiest men, building a real estate empire that included luxury hotels and resorts. He was also a leading force behind the rise of pricey Western-style suburbs ringing Cairo.

Tamim rose to stardom in the late 1990s but then hit troubled times, separating from her Lebanese husband-manager who filed a series of lawsuits against her.


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