Dewani’s mental health must be assessed quickly — NPA

Aspects of Britain’s High Court ruling to temporarily halt the extradition of businessman Shrien Dewani to South Africa were welcomed by the NPA on Friday.

“We are particularly pleased by the ruling that… the conditions in South African prisons would not violate Mr Dewani’s human rights and that it is in the interests of justice that Mr Dewani stand trial in South Africa as soon as he is fit to be tried,” National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said in a statement.

“It is also important to note that the Dewani defence team did not contend that he would not receive a fair trial in South Africa.”

French news agency AFP reported that the ruling was made on Friday after Dewani’s lawyers said he was suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression.

High Court Judges John Thomas and Duncan Ouseley said it would be “unjust and oppressive” to order the removal of Dewani, who is currently being treated in a mental health hospital in his home town of Bristol, western England.

However, they said it was in the interests of justice that he be extradited to face trial in South Africa “as soon as he is fit”.

Mhaga said it was important to assess Dewani’s mental health quickly.

“It is in the interest of justice to facilitate his recovery so that the trial can proceed sooner rather than later,” he said.

The extradition hearing will be enrolled before British Chief Magistrate Judge Riddle within 28 days.

Mhaga said Riddle would manage the further conduct of the proceedings, including additional reports on Dewani’s mental health.

“Upon receipt of these reports [and] any other material he deems appropriate, he will be called upon to decide whether Mr Dewani is fit to stand trial and be extradited to South Africa.”

Dewani has strongly denied arranging the contract killing of his 28-year-old wife Anni, who was shot in an apparent hijacking in Cape Town in November 2010.

Their taxi driver, Zola Tongo, who was jailed for 18 years for his part in the crime, claimed in a plea bargain with prosecutors that the businessman ordered the hijacking and paid for a hit on his wife.

Dewani was arrested in Britain on December 7, 2010 following an extradition request from South Africa.

A British judge approved his extradition in August but Dewani’s lawyers appealed. — Sapa

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