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Dewani extradition yet to be decided, says justice dept

Sapa

A UK court has granted Shrien Dewani new hearings that could result in appeals lasting for years, but it is not the final order, says Mthunzi Mhaga.

Shrien Dewani. (AFP)

The granting of leave to appeal to honeymoon murder accused Shrien Dewani is not a final order against his extradition, the justice department said on Tuesday.

"In all, the matter will still be argued on whether he is extraditable before three judges of the high court," said spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga.

"There is therefore no decision against the prosecution on facts, but on legal issue."

The British Press Association reported on Tuesday that three UK high court judges ruled the case should be reopened as there were still legal issues that have yet to be resolved.

Mhaga said the department believed Dewani should be sent to South Africa to face charges.

"We will patiently await this legal process to unfold while vigorously arguing for his extradition," he said. 

Outstanding legal issues
The panel of three high court judges, headed by Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, ruled that there were outstanding legal issues the court had to decide.

The next extradition hearing for Dewani should take place as soon as possible, Thomas added.

Dewani is fighting removal to South Africa to face trial over his wife Anni's death until he has recovered from mental health problems, said to include depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

His lawyers have stressed at various hearings that he will be willing to defend himself at trial once he is fit to do so.

Thomas ruled his case must be reopened to consider two key issues. The first related to Dewani's status as "an accused person". The second concerned whether it would be "unjust and oppressive" to extradite Dewani "regardless of the prognosis" of his mental condition.

Legal experts said the renewed hearing, which could lead to appeals all the way to the Supreme Court, could delay any possibility of Dewani being extradited for months, if not years.

'Another delay in this case'
Anni's sister Ami Denborg said outside court: "We've been waiting patiently for three years and today there is another delay in this case. We don't really understand why there are all these delays.

"We really want this case to move on. We want this to go to South Africa now because this is taking a toll on the family. It's hard for us to move on with our lives."

Her brother Anish Hindocha added: "We need closure. We can't bear it."

"It is up to Shrien's doctors to judge whether he is fit or not to stand trial, but he needs to go to South Africa and answer the questions raised against him. It doesn't help anyone, him not being able to answer anything," said Denborg.

"In November it will be three years since my sister died and we've gone nowhere."

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

He said Dewani, from Bristol, was still not fit to plead or stand trial at present, but there was evidence he would receive the care he needed in South Africa.

Dewani's appeal
Judge Riddle had originally given the go-ahead to Dewani's extradition in 2011, but had to reconsider the position after the high court allowed his appeal in March last year.

Dewani is suspected of ordering the killing of his new wife Anni (28), who was shot as the couple travelled in a taxi on the outskirts of Cape Town in November 2010.

Three men have been convicted so far for Anni Dewani's death. South African Xolile Mngeni was convicted last year of premeditated murder for shooting her.

Prosecutors claimed he was a hit man hired by Dewani to kill his wife, something Dewani has consistently denied.

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

Dewani's family have said that he remains committed to returning to South Africa "when his health would permit a full trial and when appropriate protections are in place for his health and safety". – Sapa

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