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 murder of his bride on honeymoon, officials 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, the Home Office said.

The 31-year-old, 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.

"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 Home Office 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."

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.

It was not yet clear whether his lawyers would appeal the home secretary's decision to extradite him.

But Anni Dewani's uncle, Ashok Hindocha, welcomed the move on behalf of his family, saying: "It shows that finally the system is working and we're happy that this can come to a closure."

The Hindocha family handed in a petition to the Home Office last week urging the home secretary to approve Dewani's extradition, saying his trial was the only way they would get answers about the murder.

In his ruling on August 10, English 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) said on Wednesday it was pleased with the home secretary's decision.

"We put up a strong argument... and we've done everything in our power to ensure that he is extraditable," said NPA spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga, adding that plans to try Dewani would be decided once he was in South Africa.

They want 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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