In Egypt a murdered woman means nothing but a policeman means everything

In 2008 Mohsen Al-Sukkari held up a card which identified him as block management and stepped inside the apartment of Lebanese pop sensation Suzanne Tamim. The next morning, she was found sprawled out across the floor of her home with multiple stab wounds to her face and throat.

Just a few months later, an Egyptian court watched the CCTV recordings of Al-Sukkari, an Egyptian policeman, entering and leaving Suzanne’s apartment in Dubai and listened to phone recordings of another man urging him to carry out the killing. The voice belonged to the business tycoon Hisham Talaat Moustafa, one of Egypt’s most high-profile real estate developers.

At the time the story captured hearts and minds across the Arab world, despite the fact that there was a media ban on reporting details of the case. As the story unfolded, it was revealed that Hisham and Suzanne had become lovers after she asked him for help divorcing her husband.

When Hisham later asked Suzanne to become his second wife she refused and pursued a relationship with Iraqi kickboxing world champion Riyad Al-Azzawi instead. Jilted and vengeful, Hisham urged Al-Sukkari to murder Suzanne and offered him $2 million in return.

READ: Female prisoners in Sisi’s jails

When the court’s initial ruling sentenced Hisham and Al-Sukkari to death, spectators let out a collective gasp. Hisham was a friend of then President Hosni Mubarak’s son, Gamal, and a member of the ruling National Democratic Party. Things like this didn’t happen to people like that.

As the retrial approached in 2010, a comment from the former deputy chief of the appeals court Mohammed El-Khodiry seems laughable knowing what we do today about Egypt’s justice system, complete with its mass trials and revolving door pretrial detentions:

“This can be a dangerous ruling. And if people completely lose faith in the judiciary, they lose faith in everything. I mean, our lives will be hell. It will be the law of the jungle.”

The verdict was back: neither man would hang. Hisham would serve 15 years and Al-Sukkari life imprisonment.

Seven years later, with General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi at the helm, Hisham was released under a presidential pardon. Finally, the story was becoming familiar. That same year Mubarak himself was acquitted of killing protesters. His interior minister Habib Al-Adly and the business tycoon Hussein Salem are among other elites who have been given a free ticket, rather than being forced to serve time.

READ: Human rights organisations: ‘Denying prisoners of conscience pardon reflects coup government’s intention to persecute oppositionists’ 

An added insult was that Hisham’s pardon was for health reasons, on account of his diabetes, despite the fact that the regime has shown little regard for prisoners’ health, time and time again. Deliberate medical neglect has killed hundreds of political prisoners in Egypt, manifested at the highest levels.

For years former President Mohamed Morsi’s family along with international politicians begged authorities to release him as his diabetes, which was not being treated, made him blind in one eye. Their failure to do so led to his protracted death.

Late former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi sits behind bars during his trail on 21 March 2016 [Stranger/Apaimages]

Late former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi can be seen with this hands clasped together – a sign of praying to God – during his trail on 21 March 2016 [Stranger/ApaImages]

Al-Sukkari’s release is a clear message that abuse against women is ok, made all the more poignant by the fact that it comes at a time when violence against women is reaching new heights due to the lockdown.

It also comes at a time that the Egyptian regime is pursuing a number of women on charges of debauchery and offending public morals, including TikTok influencers Haneen Hassan and Mawada Eladhm and singer and dancer Sama El-Masry.

Yesterday, a young Egyptian woman appeared battered and bruised on TikTok to announce that her friend Mazen Ibrahim had raped her, but instead of listening to her, authorities arrested her.

Egyptian lawmakers are calling for stricter surveillance of women on video sharing apps for “violating public morals and Egypt’s customs and traditions” yet releasing Al-Sukkari puts a clear lie to their claims they are doing so for women’s own protection.

WATCH: In Lebanon, women are being killed in their homes because of the lockdown

The Egyptian regime has no interest whatsoever in safeguarding women. It has systematically failed to tackle harassment in the street and not only overlooked but encouraged sexual violence in prisons as a way to deter politically outspoken women.

Earlier this month a TV advert for a luxury residential complex aired during Ramadan was slated by social media users as propaganda to gloss over deepening class divisions when many Egyptians can’t even afford to eat. In Egypt two thirds of people live below the breadline and this is being exacerbated by COVID-19 and the preventative measures put in place to mitigate the virus.

In the video for Madinaty, located in the east of Cairo, people boast that everything they could possibly want is there. “We don’t even have to leave,” they say. It’s a slice of heaven on earth, populated only by “people like us.”

Madinaty is owned by Hisham, who said he had been surprised by the criticism: “My project has added real value to the country,” he said in a televised interview. “My company has not laid off any employees or workers in light of the current economic crisis resulting from the spread of coronavirus.”

Classic denial and lack of empathy, all from a man who has walked free whilst thousands of political prisoners remain incarcerated. Hisham Talaat Moustafa represents everything that is wrong with Egyptian politics.