UK honeymoon suspect 'can be extradited to S. Africa'

British businessman Shrien Dewani should be extradited to South Africa to face trial for allegedly orchestrating the murder of his bride during their honeymoon in Cape Town in 2010, a judge ruled on Wednesday.

British businessman Shrien Dewani (R) arrives at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court sitting at Woolwich Crown Court in south London on August 10, 2011. Dewani should be extradited to South Africa to face trial for allegedly orchestrating the murder of his bride during their honeymoon in Cape Town in 2010, a judge ruled on Wednesday.

Lawyers for Dewani, 33, who has suffered from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder since the killing of his Swedish wife Anni, had argued that his mental health is too fragile.

But at a hearing at a London court, which was packed with Anni's relatives, judge Howard Riddle ruled that Dewani was well enough to be extradited although he still needs further treatment before a trial can take place.

South African officials welcomed the decision.

"It is not in question that Shrien Dewani will be returned to South Africa," Riddle said.

"Clinicians continue to state that Mr Dewani will recover. It may be a long time before Mr Dewani is fit to plead, but he may be closer to that point."

He added that Dewani, who is being treated at a psychiatric hospital, could receive further treatment in South Africa and be found fit for trial later.

Dewani's lawyers intend to appeal, a family spokesman said immediately after the ruling.

Anni Dewani, who like her husband was of Indian origin, was shot dead in a township outside Cape Town in November 2010 when the couple's vehicle was apparently carjacked.

Dewani denies any involvement in the killing.

A South African man, Xolile Mngeni, was jailed for life for the murder last December. Two other local men jailed over the killing allege that Dewani ordered the hit.

South African authorities have been seeking Dewani's extradition since December 2010.

He was arrested in Britain and released on bail, but British courts have delayed the extradition until now on the grounds of Dewani's serious mental illness.

South African authorities welcomed the ruling.

"It's great news. It's been a long struggle to try and get the last person to stand trial for the Dewani murder," said Bulelwa Makeke, spokeswoman for the National Prosecuting Authority.

"We wait for him to actually present himself in South Africa and then we'll take it from there," she told AFP.

"We will have to stick to all the commitments that we made to the UK courts. We told them that indeed he will receive fair treatment in South Africa."

Dewani has spent more than two years on mental health wards -- a far cry from his previous life as a wealthy executive for his family's chain of nursing homes for the elderly.

His mental health appeared to deteriorate rapidly after his arrest. In 2011 he overdosed on anti-anxiety pills, but his defence team insisted he was not trying to commit suicide.

His lawyers told a hearing in December that he was a "husk" of a man who suffered flashbacks of the night his bride was killed and was afraid to go outside.

Earlier this month, lawyers for South African authorities told a hearing that Dewani's mental health was improving and he had talked about returning to fight the case against him.

But the businessman's lawyers called for another six-month delay, arguing that he could suffer a relapse if he was extradited now.

His family said Wednesday he remained "unfit to be extradited or to face trial".

"Lawyers acting for Shrien Dewani will review today's judgment and lodge an appeal during which time Shrien will remain in the UK," they said in a statement.

"Shrien 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."

Anni's sister Amy Hindocha said the family were satisfied with the ruling.

"We will fight this battle to the end and this battle has just begun," she said.

About the author

Writer: AFP
Position: News agency