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Shrien Dewani faces extradition to South Africa in wife's murder

July 24, 2013|By Robyn Dixon
  • Surrounded by family members, Ami Denborg, sister of Anni Dewani, speaks to reporters outside Westminster Magistrates Court in London on Wednesday.
Surrounded by family members, Ami Denborg, sister of Anni Dewani, speaks… (Lewis Whyld / Associated…)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- British businessman Shrien Dewani on Wednesday lost his bid to avoid extradition from Britain to South Africa to face murder charges in the slaying of his wife on their honeymoon in 2010.

His lawyers immediately announced he would appeal Wednesday's decision by a British magistrate to allow Dewani's extradition .

Dewani had so far avoided extradition due to severe depression and post-traumatic stress and is under treatment at a mental health facility in his hometown of Bristol.

Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle said he was satisfied South Africa's legal system was fair, that Dewani would receive proper medical care and that Dewani's condition had improved. 

Ami Denborg, the sister of his late wife, Anni Dewani, told journalists outside the court that her family was satisfied with the decision and wanted to see Dewani extradited to South Africa to face trial as soon as possible.

"It's still a long way to go to the answers that we are looking for. For us, it's all about Anni and about finding out what happened to her. And we will fight this battle to the end," she said. 

"It has been really hard on the family," she said. "We are struggling every single day. Look at my mom, look at my dad. You can see on their faces."

South African authorities have been exasperated by their inability to see Dewani extradited, which he fought on the basis that he wouldn't get a fair trial, a charge South African authorities reject.

A spokesman for the South African National Prosecuting Authority, Bulewa Makeke, said Wednesday that South Africa would like to see Dewani "on the next flight." She said the government had shown that Dewani would receive the same standard of justice and healthcare that he would get in Britain.

South African lawyers argued during the hearing that even if Dewani weren't fit to plead, he should still be extradited and could receive treatment in South Africa so that he could be declared fit to stand trial.

Three men have been convicted in the killing of Anni Dewani. Prosecutors allege that Dewani paid several men to stage a fake hijacking in the township of Gugulethu, outside Cape Town, when Anni Dewani was shot dead.

According to evidence in the court, the honeymoon couple was staying at a five-star hotel in Cape Town. One of the first things Dewani did after arriving was to ask his taxi driver to set up the killing, according to the prosecution.

The couple's taxi driver, Zola Tongo, is serving 18 years after pleading guilty to murder. He alleged Dewani paid him the equivalent of $1,500 to arrange the killing.

Mzwamadoda Qwabe was convicted last year of Anni Dewani's murder and related charges and was jailed for 25 years. Xolile Mngeni was also convicted last year over the killing.

In 2011, the British home secretary signed an order that Dewani be extradited, but Dewani successfully appealed to the High Court, which ruled it would be "unjust and oppressive."

In recent months, reports emerged that Dewani's health had improved. According to evidence at the extradition hearing, he is allowed to walk from the mental health facility to his home each day.

Psychiatrist Nigel Eastman told the court that if Dewani was extradited and his health deteriorated, he might not recover and become fit to face trial.

"If he goes now, he will be in a poorer state than if he goes in six months' time," Eastman said. "If he goes to South Africa and does not improve, he is at risk of being chronically ill and chronically unfit to plead.

"Whether or not Mr. Dewani is guilty of the offense charged, he has lost his wife and there is grief at the loss of his wife. The nature of the context of the loss does not abolish that grief. It is still very real and I think he thinks about Anni a lot."

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