Shrien Dewani gets his day in court

2014-10-05 22:13
Shrien Dewani. (Sang Tan, AP)

Shrien Dewani. (Sang Tan, AP) (Sang Tan)

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Johannesburg - British millionaire businessman Shrien Dewani goes on trial on Monday in the Western Cape High Court in Cape Town accused of masterminding the murder of his wife during their honeymoon in South Africa four years ago.

Dewani's case has finally reached trial after he lost a three-year extradition fight in Britain and was ruled mentally fit to stand trial.

He was sent back to South Africa in April to answer charges for the murder of his Swedish-born bride Anni, who was shot dead on 13 November 2010.

Dewani, 34, is accused of orchestrating the hit by hiring three South Africans to kill the 28-year-old in Cape Town.

He denies the charge, claiming the pair were hijacked at gunpoint during their honeymoon as they drove through Gugulethu in a taxi.

Dewani escaped unharmed, but his wife's body was found in the abandoned car the next day.

The three South Africans have been tried and convicted and are serving jail sentences of between 18 years and life for their role in Anni Dewani's death.

Taxi driver Zola Tongo admitted guilt in a plea bargain along with another man, Mziwamadoda Qwabe. The two were sentenced to 18 and 25 years in prison respectively.

A third man, Xolile Mngeni, was later found guilty of firing the shot that killed Anni, and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Tongo's claim that Dewani had offered him R15 000 to have Anni killed is expected to play a key role in the prosecution's arguments.

Arranged marriage

Dewani fought a protracted legal battle to avoid being extradited from Britain to South Africa, claiming he had mental health problems, including depression and post-traumatic stress.

But an assessment by South African psychiatric experts found he was "not mentally ill" and "fit to stand trial".

The prosecution is expected to argue that Dewani is gay and plotted to have his wife killed to escape an arranged marriage that he was pushed into by his family.

Both Dewani and Anni are of Indian origin, from what news reports have described as devout Hindu families.

Contents of two statements to the police by Anni's cousin and by a Birmingham male prostitute, and leaked to the media, make startling claims of Anni's unhappy engagement to Dewani.

Anni's cousin Sneha Hindocha, in a statement cited by The Sunday Independent, chronicles a rocky 17-month courtship where Anni repeatedly felt sexually rejected by Dewani.

A 40-year-old gay prostitute, Leopold Leisser, claimed in a separate statement that Dewani was his client.

Leisser, according to the Saturday Star, also alleged that Dewani had told him he was getting married to a "lovely girl", but he needed "to find a way out of it".

The defence is likely to paint a picture of a happy newlywed couple.

It is yet unclear how many witnesses both sides will call during the trial.

Read more on:    anni hindocha  |  shrien dewani  |  cape town  |  honeymoon hijacking  |  dewani trial

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