Honeymoon suspect can be extradited to S.Africa: UK judge

10th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

A judge ruled Wednesday that a Briton wanted for the killing of his bride on their honeymoon can be extradited to South Africa, though the interior minister must take the final decision.

District judge Howard Riddle said the public interest in honouring the extradition treaty between Britain and South Africa outweighed the "undoubted hardship" that Shrien Dewani would go through if he was transferred.

The 31-year-old, now being treated in a mental hospital for depression and stress, is accused of murdering his new bride Anni while they visited Cape Town in November.

"As the issues arising above have been decided adversely to the defendant, I must send this case to the secretary of state for a decision to determine whether he is to be extradited," Riddle ruled.

Home Secretary Theresa May will give a final verdict, though Dewani's lawyers said they only considered Riddle's decision to be one stage in the process.

Anni Dewani's family welcomed the ruling, saying it was a step towards "closure".

"Nothing will bring Anni back, my beautiful, little, innocent sister who was killed. But getting this decision, today at least we will get somewhere," the 28-year-old's sister Ami Denborg said.

"I think she will not rest in peace until all this is over, and this is one step in the right direction for us."

The newlyweds were being driven through a dangerous part of Cape Town when their taxi was hijacked. Dewani was thrown out of the vehicle while his wife was driven off and shot dead.

Driver Zola Tongo was jailed for 18 years after turning state witness and pleaded guilty to his part in the killing. He claimed Dewani had ordered the shooting and paid him, but Dewani denies any wrongdoing.

Dewani, a businessman from Bristol in southwest England, has fought extradition proceedings, arguing that he is too unwell.

Judge Riddle accepted Dewani is suffering from severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and poses a suicide risk.

Delivering his ruling at the top-security Belmarsh Magistrates Court in southeast London, the judge said that doctors agreed Dewani was unfit to plead.

He also dismissed defence arguments that there had been an abuse of process in South Africa.

Riddle went through the potential risks posed to Dewani in a South African jail, including gang culture, overcrowding, the risk of catching HIV and the level of vulnerability to sexual assault.

He said it had been suggested Dewani was actually homosexual.

However, the judge said he was "satisfied that the authorities will take all reasonable steps to protect him," adding that Dewani would be kept in a single cell.

A spokeswoman for May's Home Office, or interior ministry, said the court had found there were "no statutory bars" to Dewani's extradition, but added: "The secretary of state will now decide whether to order his extradition."

Speaking to reporters outside court, Anni Dewani's father said the judge's decision was "a fair one".

"As a father, I demand justice against whoever is involved in this and I wish I get that justice," said Vinod Hindocha.

Riddle said it was for the South African courts to determine whether Dewani was guilty.

"Either Mr Dewani arranged for his new bride to be brutally murdered or he himself has been the victim of a terrible tragedy," he said.

South Africa wants to prosecute Dewani for murder, kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances, conspiracy to commit murder and obstructing the administration of justice.

Regional National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Eric Ntabazalila welcomed the ruling, but told AFP: "We need to emphasise that this is the beginning of a new process, it's not the final decision."

He said they would like to have Dewani in court on September 20 alongside the two men alleged to have murdered his wife, Mziwamadoda Qwabe and Xolile Mngeni.

© 2011 AFP

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