London: A court in Britain overruled an Indian-origin businessman’s plea against extradition to South Africa to stand trial for his wife’s murder during their honeymoon trip, media reported. The man argued that he is mentally unfit to stand trial.
A panel of three high court judges, headed by the Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas of England and Wales, ruled that it would not be “unjust and oppressive” to extradite Shrien Dewani, 33. However, the judges sought an undertaking from South African authorities about how long Dewani would be kept in the country without trial, The Guardian reported.
The South African government has signalled it would give such an undertaking, the court heard.
Anni, 28, Dewani’s newly-wed wife, was shot as she and her husband travelled in a taxi on the outskirts of Cape Town in November 2010. Dewani was later accused of orchestrating the murder.
A lawyer for the South African government said it was “delighted” with the court’s ruling and expected it would be able to give the undertaking required by the judges, but needed 14 days “for final clarification”, Sky News reported.
So far three men have been convicted in South Africa in the case: Xolile Mngeni, who was found guilty of shooting Anni; taxi driver Zola Tongo, who admitted to his part in the killing; and Mziwamadoda Qwabe, another accused who has also pleaded guilty to Anni’s murder.
Dewani is compulsorily detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act. His next annual review of mental state is set for May.
In July 2013, chief magistrate Howard Riddle at the Westminster Magistrates’ court ruled that Dewani should be extradited.
Rejecting his bid to stay in Britain for further treatment, Riddle said Dewani was not fit to plead or stand trial at present but there was evidence he would receive the care he needed in South Africa.
Riddle earlier gave the go-ahead to Dewani’s extradition in 2011. But he had to reconsider the position after the high court allowed an appeal.
Clare Montgomery, defence lawyer for Dewani, told Lord Thomas: “He is presently unfit. He is likely to remain unfit for a period that cannot be foreseen with any accuracy.”
“We suggest that there would be no damage done… if the court were to further adjourn this case,” Montgomery said.
Hugo Keith, who appeared for the government of South Africa, urged the court to dismiss Dewani’s appeal against his extradition.