Four-year ­extradition battle, 30 minutes in court

2014-04-06 14:00

Shrien Dewani is expected to arrive at Cape Town International Airport on Tuesday morning before he is taken to the Western Cape High Court, where he will be charged with orchestrating the murder of his new bride, Anni.

After a brief court appearance at 11.30am, the 33-year-old will be transferred to the Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital for psychological assessment.

He will only stand trial in South Africa if he is found mentally fit to do so.

Western Cape director of public prosecutions boss Rodney de Kock and former provincial Scorpions head Adrian Mopp?–?who also attended Dewani’s court appearances in London?–?will argue that Dewani paid three men to kill his wife in Gugulethu in November 2010.

The couple’s driver, Zola Tongo, admitted to his part in the crime, claiming that Dewani paid him R15?000 to kill his 28-year-old wife.

Tongo was sentenced to 18 years in jail.

The two hit men, Xolile Mngeni and ­Mziwamadoda Qwabe, were given a life sentence and 25 years in prison, respectively.

Dewani will be represented by a top legal team from Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs, which describes itself as “Africa’s largest law firm”. This week, court officials said that, to their knowledge, Dewani had not applied to the European Court of Human Rights to block his extradition.

This would have been his last resort to avoid being sent to South Africa.

Hishaam Mohamed, regional head of the ­department of justice and constitutional ­development, said: “We expect him to arrive. We are not aware of an application to the European Human Rights Court.”

Officials believe the court appearance on Tuesday will last no more than 30 minutes ­before the case is postponed.

Dewani’s arrival from the UK will end a four- year legal struggle that saw him battling ­extradition to the Western Cape with a formidable team of lawyers in Britain.

While family and supporters of Anni (whose maiden name is Hindocha) are counting the days to the extradition?–?there are literally countdown pages on Facebook?–?journalists are bracing themselves to inform the public around the globe.

Justice department spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga has organised a meeting to brief the ­media on the matter tomorrow.

Well-known local defence lawyer William Booth, who has advised on elements of the case in the past, said the backlog at Valkenberg was alarming.

“Concerns are expressed that people have to stay in custody for very long before they can be mentally assessed,” he said.

“Valkenberg is dreadful. I have a big problem with conditions at South African mental institutions; terrible conditions,” he said.

British tabloids have speculated that Dewani might be placed in the infamous Ward 20.

But Booth said: “Ward 20 is a high-security ward for dangerous people. It won’t make sense to put him there. In my mind, he’s not a flight risk.

“One must wait and see.”

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