The Naked City Sep 30 2010
WALK LIKE AN EGYPTIAN
Egyptians are reminded that in their country, as in all others, money talks and billionaires walk.

Billionaire Egyptian Hisham Talaat Moustafa has taken the first step toward avoiding the death sentence handed down to him two years ago for the murder of his ex-lover, Lebanese pop star Suzanne Tamim. We posted on it back then—how Moustafa hired Mohsen Al-Sukkari to jet to Dubai and do away with Tamim, but was tripped up when Al-Sukkari accidentally let himself be caught on security cameras entering and leaving Tamim’s building. Average Egyptians, after Moustafa’s surprising death sentence was announced, were forced to deal with the unsettling possibility that their legal system was not corrupt through-and-through, and that their lifelong cynicism concerning equal justice for both rich and poor had been unwarranted. Well, they needn’t have worried. On Tuesday appeals judge Adel Abdel-Salam Gomaa left peon Al-Sukkari’s death sentence in place but reduced billionaire Moustafa’s sentence to fifteen years, even though under Egyptian law contracting for a murder is deemed equivalent to committing one. Most observers, cynicism fully restored, believe the sentence reduction is only the first of several steps toward freeingMoustafa. The judge is legally bound to detail the reasoning behind Tuesday's decision, but with a sixty day grace period to work with he has the luxury of choosing a day when his explanation will make the least impact. Meanwhile Al-Sukkari’s defense attorney—his client now left to face death alone—summed up events by commenting, “I’m 72 years old and throughout my long career as a lawyer I have never witnessed such an incident.” 

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The Naked City May 22 2009
DIAL M FOR MURDER
Egyptian billionaire calls up an employee and asks for a big favor.

In Egypt yesterday, billionaire hotel and resort magnate Hisham Talaat Moustafa was sentenced to death by hanging after hiring a hitman to kill his ex-lover, Lebanese pop singer Suzanne Tamim. Tamim was knifed to death at her home in Dubai last year by Mohsen el-Sukkary, a security guard employed at one of Moustafa’s numerous hotels. Moustafa’s involvement became clear through phone records and other evidence, and el-Sukkary’s hand in the crime was determined after he left DNA at the murder scene and was caught on a security camera.

Suzanne Tamim became famous in 1996 after winning an American Idol-style competition, but her career ran into problems, and she split with her manager-husband. Her affair with Moustafa was a closely guarded secret because he is married. When it soured last year Tamim took up residence in Dubai, reportedly to distance herself. Moshen el-Sukkary, who was also sentenced to death by hanging, flew to Dubai after agreeing to a two million dollar fee for his services and tricked Tamim into opening her apartment door by posing as an employee of the property. Once inside, he attacked the singer with a knife and eventually slashed her throat, but not before leaving ample evidence behind, including his own blood.

There had been widespread interest in the case in Egypt—and throughout the Arab world—because the wealthy and highly connected are seen as above the law. It was particularly thought to be true of Moustafa, who is a member of Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party and is close to President Hosni Mubarak’s youngest son, Gamal. But in a surprising development, Moustafa was stripped of his parliamentary immunity before the trial. Moustafa might still dodge the hangman—his case will be going through a mandatory review by religious authorities, and an appeal to the high court, which means his connections may yet serve him.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
August 23
1942—Battle of Stalingrad Begins
The Battle of Stalingrad, perhaps the most pivotal event of World War II, begins. It lasts for more than six months, spread across the brutal Russian winter, and ends with two million casualties. The Russian sacrifice reduces the powerful German army to a shell of its former self, and as a result Nazi defeat in the war becomes a simple matter of time.
1979—Alexander Gudonov Defects
Russian ballet dancer and actor Alexander Borisovich Godunov defects to the U.S. The event causes an international diplomatic crisis, but Gudonov manages to win asylum. He joins the famous American Ballet Theater, where he becomes a colleague of fellow-defector Mikhail Baryshnikov, and later earns roles in such Hollywood films as Witness and Die Hard.
August 22
1950—Althea Gibson Breaks the Color Barrier
Althea Gibson becomes the first African-American woman to compete on the World Tennis Tour, and the first to earn a Grand Slam title when she wins the French Open in 1956. Later she becomes the first African-American woman to compete in the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
1952—Devil's Island Closed
Devil's Island, the penal colony located off the coast of French Guiana, is permanently closed. The prison is later made world famous by Henri Charrière's bestselling novel Papillon, and the subsequent film starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman.
1962—De Gaulle Survives Assassination Attempt
Jean Bastien-Thiry, a French air weaponry engineer, attempts to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle to prevent Algerian independence. Bastien-Thiry and others attack de Gaulle's armored limousine with machine guns, but after expending hundreds of rounds, they succeed only in puncturing two tires.
August 21
1911—Mona Lisa Disappears
Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, aka La Gioconda, is stolen from the Louvre. After many wild theories and false leads, it turns out the painting was snatched by museum employee Vincenzo Peruggia.
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