Shrien Dewani can be extradited

2014-01-31 12:56

Honeymoon murder suspect Shrien Dewani has lost a British high court bid to block his extradition to South Africa until he is fit to stand trial.

A panel of three judges, headed by Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, ruled that it would not be “unjust and oppressive” to extradite him if the South African government gave an undertaking on how long he would be kept in the country without trial, the British Press Association reported.

The court heard today that the government indicated it was willing to give that undertaking.

Dewani, from Bristol, has been fighting removal from the UK to face proceedings over his wife’s death until he has recovered from mental health problems, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dewani, who is compulsorily detained in hospital under the UK’s Mental Health Act for allegedly ordering the killing of his wife Anni (28), who was shot as the couple travelled in a taxi in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, in November 2010.

His lawyers have stressed at various hearings that he will be willing to defend himself at trial once he is fit to do so, but they say he is unfit to plead under English law and his “prognosis is not certain”.

Today’s ruling followed a hearing at the high court last year. Those proceedings took place after an earlier decision that there were outstanding legal issues which needed to be decided.

Last July, Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle ruled at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court that Dewani should be extradited and rejected his attempt to stay in the UK for further hospital treatment.

He said Dewani was not fit to plead nor stand trial at present, but there was evidence that he would receive the care he needed in South Africa.

Riddle originally gave the go-ahead to Dewani’s extradition in 2011 but had to reconsider the position after the high court later allowed an appeal.

The high court proceedings centred on two legal issues. The first related to Dewani’s status as “an accused person’’ and the second concerned whether it would be “unjust and oppressive’’ to extradite him “regardless of the prognosis’’ of his mental condition.

The judges were asked to decide whether a person who is unfit to plead is “an accused” for the purpose of the Extradition Act 2003 “if he is being extradited in circumstances where he may remain unfit to plead”.

They were also asked to rule on whether it was “unjust or oppressive to extradite a person who is agreed at the time of the determination to be unfit, whatever the prognosis”.

Three South African men have been convicted for Anni Dewani’s death.

Xolile Mngeni was convicted of premeditated murder for shooting her. Prosecutors claimed he was a hitman hired by Dewani to kill his wife, which Dewani has consistently denied.

Taxi driver Zola Tongo was jailed for 18 years after he admitted his part in the killing and another accomplice, Mziwamadoda Qwabe, also pleaded guilty to murder and was handed a 25-year prison sentence.

» This story was updated after first published

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