On Thursday, at the third session of the retrial of construction magnate Hisham Talat Mostafa for the 2008 murder of a Lebanese singer, the criminal court heard the first witness: a technical expert from the Interior Ministry who explained how shots taken from video footage showing the perpetrator of the crime had been selected for evidence.
His testimony was given based on a request by Mustafa’s and Mohsen el-Sukari’s defense lawyers. El-Sukari is a former state security policeman who was allegedly commissioned by business tycoon and ex-MP Mostafa to kill pop star Suzanne Tamim in her Dubai apartment. Tamim and Mustafa were romantically involved but their relationship had taken a nasty turn when she left him and reportedly married another man.
During the opening session of the retrial, the prosecution charged that Mostafa had orchestrated the murder “in an act of revenge” and had hired el-Sukari to stalk and kill her.
Screenshots of a Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) video showed el-Sukari, who appeared in court on Thursday, near the crime scene and entering and exiting a Dubai hotel. The video was one of several pieces of evidence brought against the defendants. Interior Ministry official Ahmed Salem Sayyid Selim, the visual expert who extracted and selected the images of el-Sukari from the footage for viewing, appeared in court on Thursday morning as a witness to analyze the videos and answer questions posed by defense lawyers.
He denied that there were inconsistencies between the time codes written by hand on the pictures and the electronic time stamp that they also carry, as lawyers had claimed earlier. The court watched parts of the footage as the witness explained where they were taken, at what times, and how they had helped track the movements of el-Sukari from his hotel to Tamim’s apartment and back again.
A day earlier, el-Sukari had spoken from the dock saying that only a few of the images in which his face was revealed were authentic, hinting that Dubai authorities were trying to frame him–a claim that his lawyers reiterated, saying that Dubai was withholding visual evidence. Fareed el-Deeb, defense lawyer for Mostafa, and Anis el-Manawy, el-Sukari’s lawyer, requested that all the footage–around 8,500 hours of video–be re-checked.
But Selim on Thursday said that this was “near impossible” because of the time it would take. Both lawyers requested that they be given a copy of the incriminating footage to show to an independent expert–a request that the court granted.
Previously, the three-judge panel court, headed by Judge Adel Abdel-Salam Gomaa, had heard recorded phone conversations between Mostafa and el-Sukari in which they spoke about the murder. The retrial itself began on Monday, with both defendants pleading not guilty to all charges. Both defendants have been present in the dock amid heavy security both inside and outside the courtroom.
Mostafa and el-Sukari were arrested in November 2008, convicted in the first trial and handed death penalties in 2009. Mustafa’s lawyers, however, won an appeal on technical grounds and the sentences for both defendants were subsequently overturned.
The retrial’s fourth session has been scheduled for 22 May.