A judge in Lebanon's highest court yesterday overturned the death sentence of Tarek Houshieh, who was convicted of raping and murdering British embassy employee Rebecca Dykes in December 2017.
No reason was given for the decision to overturn the ruling, which was made by Judge Jamal Al-Hajjar, but a hearing has been set for 5 March.
Dykes was strangled to death on 16 December 2017 after leaving female friends on a night out in the Beirut district of Gemmayze.
The embassy worker was found the following morning on the side of the Metn highway, with a rope around her neck, bearing signs of strangulation. She was set to fly home for Christmas the next day.
Nehme Mallah, who carried out forensic examinations on Dykes' body, told the Daily Star Lebanon, at the time, that similar attacks against local women happened regularly, but that this was the first case seen involving a Western woman.
"This is the first time I've seen a case like this with a Westerner. But I see four or five of these cases a month – half of them Syrian, half Lebanese," the examiner said.
Houshieh, a 41-year-old local uber driver, was arrested in the early hours of 18 December, and quickly confessed to the crime, providing authorities with details of Dyke's assault and murder.
In his confession, Houshieh allegedly claimed that, after entering his car, Dykes "was passing in and out of consciousness due to being drunk".
The killer, who had a criminal record, had faked his driving licence and other documents so that he could work as a taxi driver in Beirut. He had previously served prison time for drug offences and assault convictions.
The former Uber driver was sentenced to death by a Mount Lebanon criminal court on 1 November 2019.
In a statement at the time, the British embassy said it hoped that the court's decision would "provide a degree of closure".
Prior to her death, Dykes was working as a program and policy manager for the UK's Department for International Development in Lebanon and had moved to Beirut in January 2017.
Lebanon has not carried out an execution since 2004, despite courts continuing to hand down the sentence. In most cases, death sentences translate to lifetime imprisonment and hard manual labour.