March 4, 2010 / 4:15 PM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 3-Egypt tycoon facing death, gets retrial

* Employees, others in court cheer ruling

* Father of convicted security man praises judge

(Adds analyst comment, paragraph five)

By Yasmine Saleh

CAIRO, March 4 (Reuters) - An Egyptian appeals court on Thursday ordered a retrial of property tycoon and politician Hesham Talaat Moustafa, who was sentenced to hang for paying a gunman $2 million to murder a Lebanese singer.

Moustafa, a member of parliament for Egypt’s ruling party and former chairman of the Talaat Moustafa Group (TMGH.CA), was convicted in a lower court of paying Egyptian security man Muhsen el-Sukkari to kill Suzanne Tamim, 30, in Dubai.

If this appeal had failed, Moustafa and Sukkari would have faced the gallows unless pardoned by Egypt’s president.

Analysts said Thursday’s decision in a death sentence case was not unusual but Moustafa’s privileged background was likely to encourage talk about different rules for the elite. His original sentencing had caused surprise in Egypt.

“What makes Egyptians talk about politics interfering in this case is because the accused had a prominent position in the ruling party, raising doubts about the extent the law is applied to rich businessmen possessing political connections,” said political analyst Nabil Abdel Fattah.

Judge Adel Abdel-Hamid said the court “accepts the request for retrial for both convicts” and that Moustafa and Sukkari’s case would go to retrial in a criminal court, prompting some present in the packed chamber to cheer and ululate.

A statement issued after the ruling said the original verdict had “mistakes in implementing the law” and the original court failed to respond to several core requests of the defence.

“In the next court, God willing, in three to four hearings, we will secure the exoneration for the two defendants,” Shawkat Ezz el-Din, one of their lawyers, told Reuters.

‘THANK GOD’

    Lawyers representing Tamim’s husband said they would examine the reasons for latest court decision.

    Witnesses said those in court included employees of the real estate company and members of Sukkari’s family.

    “Thank God that Egypt has fair judges and fair trials. We are going to Muhsen now. We are on our way,” Sukkari’s father told reporters after the ruling.

    Media reports labelled the attack an act of revenge after Tamim, killed in 2008, ended a relationship with Moustafa, 50, a member of parliament’s upper house.

    Moustafa and Sukkari will be allowed to appeal any ruling by the new court, judge Ahmed Mekky, who was also involved in Thursday’s case, told Reuters after the ruling.

    “If the (second) appeal is accepted, the appeals court has to handle the retrial and its sentence will be final, and they can’t do anything after that,” he said.

    Moustafa handed over the chairmanship of property firm Talaat Moustafa Group to his brother Tarek after he was charged, but the share price has moved on each twist and turn in the case, that has been watched closely across the Arab world.

    Shares in Talaat Moustafa, after climbing before Thursday’s decision with traders citing rumours the appeal would be accepted, fell later in the session after the news, closing down 4.2 percent. The overall market was flat. (Writing by Edmund Blair, Editing by Myra MacDonald)

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