UK minister to rule on honeymoon suspect extradition: judge

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A judge ruled Wednesday that a British man can be extradited to South Africa to face trial for the murder of his bride on their honeymoon but said interior minister Theresa May should take the final decision.

District Judge Howard Riddle said there was a public interest in honouring the extradition treaty between Britain and South Africa in the case of 31-year-old Shrien Dewani, accused of murdering his wife Anni in November.

But he added: "I must send this case to the secretary of state for a decision to determine whether he is to be extradited."

Anni Dewani's family welcomed the ruling, saying that although it would not bring the 28-year-old back, it gave them some 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," her 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."

South African authorities want Shrien Dewani, from Bristol in southwest England, to be sent back to the country so he can be put on trial for the murder of his Swedish-born wife in Cape Town last November.

The newlyweds were being driven through the dangerous township of Gugulethu when their taxi was hijacked on November 13. Dewani was thrown out of the vehicle while his wife was driven off and shot dead.

He denies any involvement and has fought extradition proceedings, arguing that he is suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder and is too unwell to be extradited.

Giving his ruling at Belmarsh Magistrates Court in London, the judge said there would be "undoubted hardship" for Dewani if he were extradited to South Africa.

"However, when all relevant factors are considered, the risk of hardship falls short of oppression. The public interest in extradition and trial outweighs the competing hardship," Riddle said.

He said Dewani, whom he described as "good-looking, youthful and physically well-preserved", would be particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse in a South African jail.

But he said he was satisfied that he would be held in a prison with a good level of facilities and be kept in a single cell.

A spokeswoman for the 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, Ami Denborg said the last few months had been a "nightmare".

"We are just so happy today. We hope Shrien will help the police as much as possible and that he will return to South Africa," she said.

Anni Dewani's father, Vinod Hindocha, said the judge's decision was "a fair one" but showed no ill will towards his son-in-law, saying: "I wish Shrien a very speedy recovery from his illness."

He said the case was not about the accused, "it's about my beautiful daughter Anni, and not forgetting her". He added: "This is a step to closure."

© 2011 AFP

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