A Cairo court has sentenced an Egyptian judge, along with his accomplice, to death for the premeditated murder of his wife.
The preliminary sentences handed to Ayman Haggag and accomplice Hussein El Gharably have been referred to the grand mufti, who is always consulted over the death penalty. However, the opinion is non-binding.
The Giza criminal court on Tuesday referred the case to the grand mufti, a necessary Egyptian legal procedure before issuing a death sentence.
The next court hearing, when the final verdict is expected to be announced, is set for September 11.
The Gamal case came to light when El Gharably confessed that he took part in the murder in exchange for money and led investigators to the victim’s burial site.
Haggag, a member of Egypt’s State Council, had reported his wife missing more than two weeks earlier. At that time, he said he had dropped her off in front of a mall in an affluent district of Cairo and that she did not show up when they were supposed to meet afterwards.
However, El Gharably told prosecutors that Haggag plotted to kill his wife after she blackmailed him by demanding money in exchange for not revealing “secrets”, the prosecutors said.
Court told of gruesome murder
A police investigation found that Haggag lured her to a remote farm in Giza, where he struck her with a pistol and strangled her to death with a piece of cloth as El Gharably held her. They buried her in a makeshift grave after dousing her body with nitric acid to distort her features.
DNA fingerprints of the defendants were found on the cloth used to murder her and a forensic examination confirmed that the cause of death was strangulation.
Prosecutors said mobile phone signals of the defendants and the victim showed all three were close to a mobile phone mast near the farm on the day of the crime.
The prosecution established additional evidence based on the testimonies of 10 people, including the owner of a shop where the defendants bought spades and the corrosive liquid.
During the first hearing in the case, Haggag claimed that he killed Gamal in self-defence after she attacked him with a knife. But the prosecution dismissed the claim because of a lack of evidence and said El Gharably’s confession contradicted that account.
Gender-based violence in the spotlight
It is one of several high-profile femicide cases that have taken place in Egypt in recent months, shining a spotlight on the issue of gender-based violence.
On June 19, university student Nayera Ashraf was stabbed to death by a classmate after she had rebuffed his romantic advances. A video of the murder in Mansoura, north of Cairo, was widely circulated on social media. Mohamed Adel confessed and was sentenced to death.
This month, university student Salma Bahgat was stabbed to death in the eastern Nile Delta city of Zagazig by a colleague whose marriage proposal she had rejected. The alleged killer, Islam Mohamed, was referred to a criminal court after confessing to prosecutors, in addition to 15 accounts of the attack by witnesses.