Real estate tycoon to appeal verdict in murder conviction

A lawyer for an Egyptian businessman and politician sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in the murder of a Lebanese singer said on Thursday he will seek a new trial to reduce the jail term.

Hesham Talaat Moustafa was sentenced to death in his first trial, but that was replaced at retrial by a jail term over the murder of Suzanne Tamim in Dubai in 2008. A new case could reduce the sentence further or acquit him.

"I am demanding our legal right to have another trial … We remain confident that Hisham is innocent and we demand he gets acquitted," Baha Aboushukka, one of Moustafa's lawyers, said.

He added that the defense team had not decided whether to seek another trial in a criminal court, which could be appealed further, or take it to an appeals court, whose ruling could not be challenged. Either way, the case will be heard from scratch.

Any sentence in a new trial cannot be harsher than the 15 years Moustafa faces, a legal expert said. That would only change if the prosecution appealed his existing term, which has not happened till now, and secured a tougher sentence.

Muhsen Sukkari, a security man, was handed a life sentence for carrying out the murder. His lawyer previously said he would appeal the verdict.

Egypt and the Arab world has been gripped by the case that mixes celebrity, money and power. Shares in Talaat Moustafa Group, which Moustafa chaired until stepping down before the first trial, have moved on each twist of the case.

Media reports labeled the attack an act of revenge after the singer Tamim ended a relationship with Moustafa, who is a member of parliament for the ruling National Democratic Party and a property magnate.

Moustafa was arrested in September 2008, after Tamim's death in July that year. He was convicted and sentenced to death by a criminal court in May 2009.

In March, the appeals court accepted the request for a retrial on the grounds of legal errors and after the original court was found to have failed to respond to defense requests. The retrial verdict was issued in September.

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