/ 30 September 2011

Dewani one step closer to extradition

The prospect of British businessman Shrien Dewani being flown to South Africa to face trial for the murder of his wife, Anni, moved a step closer when British Home Secretary Theresa May signed an order for his extradition this week.

May ratified a judge’s decision that Dewani ought to return to face legal proceedings over allegations that he arranged his wife’s killing in a fake carjacking during their honeymoon. The 31-year-old businessman now has 14 days to appeal to the high court against May’s decision and is believed likely to do so.

However, May’s decision was welcomed by prosecutors in South Africa and the members of Anni’s family, who want Dewani to explain in court what happened.

Anni Dewani (28) was shot dead in an apparent carjacking in Gugulethu township on the outskirts of Cape Town last November. Her husband and the driver of their taxi, Zola Tongo, were ejected from the vehicle.

Dewani was implicated in Anni’s murder by Tongo, who claimed in a plea bargain that Dewani had offered him R15 000 to arrange the hit.

Dewani has always protested his innocence and fought against extradition, claiming he would not face a fair trial and that his human rights would be infringed because of the conditions he was likely to face in prison as he awaited trial and if he was convicted.

It was also argued that Dewani, who has severe post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression, was too sick to travel.

But last month, a district judge, Howard Riddle, agreed with the South African authorities that he should be extradited. Announcing May’s decision, a British Home Office spokesperson said: “On Monday 26 September, the home secretary, having carefully considered all relevant matters, signed an order for Shrien Prakash Dewani’s extradition to South Africa.

“It will be up to the metropolitan police’s extradition unit to actually organise Dewani’s return with the South African authorities.”

The decision was welcomed by members of Swedish-born Anni Dewani’s family. Last week, 12 members of her family handed in a petition that they said had been signed by 11 000 people asking for May to back the court’s decision that Dewani should return to South Africa.

Anni’s father, Vinod Hindocha, said the only way for the family to get “closure” was for Dewani to face legal proceedings in South Africa.

Tongo’s lawyer, William da Grass, said South Africans would welcome May’s decision to extradite Dewani.

He said: “This is very good news as it brings us one step closer to seeing a resolution to this dreadful case. We have said all along that we want to see Mr Dewani face justice and now we are one step closer to that.”

Tongo has been jailed for 18 years for murder, kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances and perverting the course of justice. The alleged hitmen, Xolile Mngeni (23) and Mziwamadoda Qwabe (25), charged with murder, kidnapping and robbery with aggravating circumstances, are to appear before Cape Town’s Wynberg regional court in February.

Shrien Dewani has been undergoing treatment at a medium-secure psychiatric hospital in Bristol. Doctors there have said there is a “high risk” he will commit suicide if he is returned to South Africa. —