Monday, November 29, 1999

Egyptian faces death penalty for rich duo`s murder

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An Egyptian court on Wednesday sentenced a man to death for murdering a celebrity's daughter and her friend during a robbery in a case the defence said highlighted the divisions between Egypt's rich and poor.Mahmoud Essawy was found guilty of killing the women after they surprised him as he stole a cellphone and 400 Egyptian pounds ($70) from a private house in a gated community.Heba Ibrahim Al-Akad, the 23-year old daughter of Moroccan singer Laila Ghofran, was stabbed several times and her friend Nadine Khaled Gamal, a Saudi, had her throat slit.Defence lawyer Ahmed Gomaa said Essawy had been framed to protect the real culprit."This is bigger than this poor kid," Gomaa told Reuters. "If he was going in to steal, why didn't he take anything (of value)?"He said he would appeal against the death sentence, which in Egypt is carried out by hanging.When the case first came to light, Egyptian media raised questions about the privileged existence of the wealthy who are cut off from the daily lives of ordinary Egyptians.The United Nations says one-fifth of Egypt's population lives on less than a $1 a day.(Reporting by Dina Zayed; editing by Andrew Dobbie)($1 = 5.678 Egyptian pounds)

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