S.Africa honeymoon murder suspect's life at risk, court told
The life of a British businessman accused of killing his Swedish bride on their honeymoon in Cape Town could be put at risk if he is extradited to South Africa, his High Court appeal heard Tuesday.
Shrien Dewani, 31, who is being treated in a mental hospital for severe depression and stress, is too ill to stand trial, the two judges hearing his appeal against extradition were told.
Dewani, a care home owner from Bristol in southwest England, is accused of murdering his new wife Anni, 28, in November last year. He denies wrongdoing.
District judge Howard Riddle ruled in August that Dewani could be extradited to South Africa to face trial, but said the final word rested with Britain's interior minister.
Home Secretary Theresa May signed an order in September authorising his extradition to face trial in South Africa but Dewani launched an appeal.
His lawyer Clare Montgomery told the two High Court judges hearing the appeal that his mental health had deteriorated to the point where he was "too ill to be extradited" and was a suicide risk.
She also argued he was at serious risk of violence if kept in custody in South Africa, including sexual violence, at the hands of other prisoners.
Dewani was not present for the hearing in London, which is expected to conclude Wednesday.
Montgomery said he was so ill that he would be incapable of giving instructions to his lawyers or following trial proceedings, and he should not be extradited unless he recovers.
She said Dewani had always wanted a fair trial.
"However that is, at the moment, on the advice we have been given by those who are treating him, not possible," Montgomery said.
She urged the court to discharge the extradition order or adjourn its implementation.
She said Riddle had been wrong when he accepted South African assurances that Dewani's life and health would not be endangered if he was extradited.
Riddle had heard the potential risks posed to Dewani in a South African jail included gang culture, overcrowding, the risk of catching HIV and the level of vulnerability to sexual assault.
Montgomery said Riddle should have ordered Dewani's discharge under section 91 of the Extradition Act 2003 on the grounds that sending him back to South Africa would "manifestly endanger his health or risk his life".
In November 2010, 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.
© 2011 AFP