Court to decide on Dewani's health

2014-04-07 21:19
(Dominic Lipinski, AP)

(Dominic Lipinski, AP)

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Cape Town - The Western Cape High Court will have the final say on whether honeymoon murder accused Shrien Dewani is fit to stand trial, a justice department official said on Monday.

"The court obviously decides that after hearing counsel on the matter as usually happens in court," provincial justice head Hishaam Mohamed told journalists in a technical briefing at the court.

Dewani, 33, is due to make his first appearance in a South African court on Tuesday morning following extended extradition proceedings.

He claims he and Anni were kidnapped at gunpoint as they drove through Gugulethu in Cape Town in a taxi in November 2010.

Dewani was released unharmed. The next day his wife's body was found in the abandoned car. She had been shot dead.

The couple were on honeymoon at the time.

Three alleged accomplices are already serving jail terms in connection with the crimes.

Dewani has denied any part in the murder and has been fighting removal from the United Kingdom until he has recovered from mental health problems, including severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Justice department spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said at the briefing Dewani would be kept at a medical facility in Cape Town but declined to give further details.

According to media reports, Dewani might be kept at Valkenberg Hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

Mhaga remained mum on who the presiding judge, prosecutors and defence team would be should Dewani go on trial.

In 2012, deputy director of prosecutions Adrian Mopp was the prosecutor in the trial of convicted gunman Xolile Mngeni.

Before the technical briefing on Monday, Mopp was seen entering and leaving the court with Advocate Francois van Zyl and attorney Taswell Papier.

Van Zyl has been involved in prominent trials before and defended Schabir Shaik in his fraud and corruption trial in Durban.

Mhaga said Dewani's flight would take off from England on Monday night and would land in Cape Town on Tuesday morning.

Dewani’s arrival

The department declined to reveal which exit he would use to leave the Cape Town International Airport or his expected landing time, citing security concerns.

"In view of his peculiar medical condition, he will be accompanied by a medical doctor, a nurse and members of the SA Police Service," Mhaga said.

"This is informed by the fact that he is currently a patient and a suspect who is in police custody and may need medical assistance en-route to the country."

Mohamed said Dewani would be taken straight to the high court in a "one-stop justice process", where he would be charged with conspiracy to commit murder and defeating the ends of justice.

He would appear before Judge President John Hlophe at 11.30.

Mhaga reminded the media that Dewani had the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

"It is for this reason that there will be no provision for him to be photographed prior to his court appearance," Mhaga said.

"Media will have an opportunity to film him in court, but as soon as the judge walks in, all cameras should be off and removed from the courtroom."

He said the media could apply to the court to film his next appearance.

Members of the media would need to apply for accreditation at the court on Tuesday morning, ahead of his appearance.

The department was confident its house was in order.

"We do not anticipate any delays. We do not foresee any hiccups," Mhaga said.

He declined to comment on how much the extradition process had cost the department.

"At this stage, we are unable to give statistics or an account of money that has been spent so far."

- SAPA
Read more on:    anni dewani  |  shrien dewani  |  cape town  |  crime  |  honeymoon hijacking
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