Honeymoon accused faces extradition

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The Independent Online

The businessman accused of murdering his new wife on their honeymoon can be extradited to South Africa to stand trial, a judge ruled today.

Shrien Dewani, 31, denies any involvement in the death of Anni Dewani, who was shot dead in a taxi in Cape Town last November in an apparent car-jacking.

Her widower, who is accused of ordering the attack, has fought extradition proceedings, saying he is suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

District Judge Howard Riddle, handing down the judgment at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in south-east London, said there was a "strong public interest" in Dewani being extradited, however.

He said he had "no doubt" Dewani is at high risk of suicide or self-harm, but that he believed he would receive appropriate mental health care at the hands of the South African authorities.

Judge Riddle said Dewani, whom he described as "good-looking, youthful and physically well-preserved", would be particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse, adding: "There has been some suggestion that he may be gay."

But he added that he was satisfied that Dewani, a care home owner from Bristol, would be held in a prison with a good level of facilities and be kept in a single cell.

Dewani, who has been staying at a secure mental health hospital in Bristol, sat in the dock wearing a dark blue sweatshirt and black trousers and stared straight ahead at the judge throughout the hearing. Members of his family were present to hear the decision.

The newlyweds were being chauffeured through the dangerous township of Gugulethu when their taxi was hijacked on November 13. Dewani was ejected while his wife was driven off and shot dead. Her body was found the next morning in the back of the abandoned cab.

Taxi driver Zola Tongo, who has admitted his part in the crime, claimed in a plea agreement with prosecutors that Dewani ordered the car-jacking and paid for a hit on his wife.

Anni's relatives were praised by the judge for their "quiet dignity" throughout the months of court proceedings.

Speaking outside court, her father Vinod Hindocha, who was accompanied by wife Nilam, thanked the judge for the "fair" decision and said the day was not about Dewani but "about my beautiful daughter Anni, not forgetting her".

He added: "I'm sure she'd be very, very happy today to hear the decision.

"I wish Shrien a very speedy recovery so he can now put his head down and help the police and clear his name."

Dewani faces charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances and obstructing the administration of justice.

The judge said it should now be for the South African courts to decide if he is guilty.

"Either Mr Dewani arranged for his new bride to be brutally murdered or he himself has been the victim of a terrible tragedy," he added.

The application to extradite Dewani will now be passed to Home Secretary Theresa May for her to make the final decision.