S. Africa honeymoon murder husband freed from British jail

10th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

A British businessman wanted in South Africa over the murder of his bride on their honeymoon left prison on bail Friday, which his spokesman said would allow him to continue "bereavement counselling".

Shrien Dewani was driven away from a south London jail under a blanket in the back of a luxury sport utility vehicle, after a High Court judge rejected South African appeals to keep him in custody during the extradition process.

South Africa wants 30-year-old Dewani on suspicion of paying to have his bride Anni killed in Cape Town.

The 28-year-old was shot dead on November 13 after the couple's taxi was said to have been hijacked.

In a South African court on Tuesday, taxi driver Zola Tongo said he was offered 15,000 rand (2,175 dollars) by Dewani to kill his wife. Dewani strongly denies any involvement.

Tongo has already received a reduced sentence for murder as part of a plea bargain.

The South African authorities were concerned that Dewani would not appear at an extradition hearing in Britain later this month if he was allowed bail.

However, Duncan Ouseley, a judge at the High Court in London, disagreed Friday and allowed his application.

Dewani, a care home owner, handed himself in to a police station in Bristol, southwest England, on Tuesday.

He appeared Wednesday at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court in London on an extradition warrant.

He was granted bail but the South African authorities appealed, meaning he stayed in custody.

Dewani was being held at Wandsworth Prison -- the same jail where WikiLeaks website founder Julian Assange is awaiting the outcome of moves to extradite him to Sweden.

His release from custody comes under stringent bail conditions, including the payment of a 250,000-pound (400,000-dollar, 300,000-euro) cash surety. He must wear an electronic tag, keep to a curfew and report daily to the police.

In court Friday, lawyer Ben Watson, representing South Africa, said "significant new evidence" had emerged showing there was "a very powerful case against Mr Dewani" which increased the risk of him taking flight if allowed bail.

He told the judge this included new security camera footage and evidence that Dewani had obtained money on the black market, allegedly to fund the murder.

Dewani's lawyer Clare Montgomery said he was being accused by a group of self-confessed robbers and murderers with "everything to gain and nothing to lose" by implicating Dewani.

She argued there was "nothing" in the fresh material which strengthened the case against Dewani or made it more likely that he would disappear".

But the judge allowed bail after ruling there was "strong support" for the submission that "Dewani genuinely hopes that the investigation will clear him" and would therefore not flee.

"I have concluded that he has a continuing and realistic interest in making sure that he clears his name," Ouseley said.

Due to the "tragic and terrible murder of his wife", his face is well known and it would be difficult for him to leave Britain or "go underground", the judge said.

Dewani's spokesman, the publicity guru Max Clifford, said his relatives were "very pleased" with the decision.

"They're pleased also that he is able to go home and continue his trauma and bereavement counselling," he said.

"He is going to be surrounded by his loved ones and his family, who will support him."

© 2010 AFP

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