UK approves honeymoon suspect's extradition to S. Africa

28th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain's interior minister has signed an order authorising the extradition of Shrien Dewani to South Africa to face trial for the killing of his bride on honeymoon, the Home Office said Wednesday.

A British judge ruled on August 10 that Dewani could be extradited but said the final decision rested with Home Secretary Theresa May. Dewani now has 14 days to appeal, a Home Office statement said.

"On Monday 26 September the home secretary, having carefully considered all relevant matters, signed an order for Shrien Prakash Dewani's extradition to South Africa," the statement said.

"Mr Dewani now has the opportunity, within 14 days, to appeal to the High Court against the decision of the district judge and/or the home secretary."

Dewani, 31, who is being treated in a mental hospital for depression and stress, is accused of murdering his new Swedish bride Anni, 28, while they visited Cape Town in November.

The newlyweds were being driven through a dangerous part of the city 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.

His lawyers were not immediately available for comment.

In his ruling on August 10, district judge Howard Riddle said the public interest in honouring the extradition treaty between Britain and South Africa outweighed the "undoubted hardship" that Dewani would go through if transferred.

The judge accepted Dewani is suffering from severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and is at risk of suicide, but he 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.

South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) meanwhile welcomed the decision, saying it was a confirmation of last month's ruling.

"The NPA is pleased with the decision of the home secretary and it confirms our strong view that indeed he is extradictable," said spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga.

"We put up a strong argument...and we've done everything in our power to ensure that he is extradictable, so it's confirmation of what the judge had found," he said, adding that plans to try Dewani would be decided once he was in South Africa.

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

A South African magistrate ruled earlier this month that the trial of two other men accused of killing Anni Dewani would start in February at the high court in Cape Town.

One defendant, Xolile Mngeni, had surgery to remove a brain tumour in June. He and the second suspect, Mziwamadoda Qwabe, were both remanded in custody.

© 2011 AFP

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