Newlywed accused's family 'pleased' by bail

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The Independent Online

The relatives of a British newlywed facing extradition to South Africa accused of his wife's murder are "very pleased" he was granted bail, their spokesman said today.

The South African authorities want to extradite wealthy businessman Shrien Dewani, 30, for conspiracy to murder new wife Anni, 28.

But a High Court judge disagreed with their accusations and allowed the Bristol care home owner's bail application today.

PR guru Max Clifford said: "Obviously, they are very pleased, particularly because the South African authorities opposed this and they put in front of Mr Justice Ouseley in the High Court all the reasons why he should go back and why he shouldn't be granted bail.

"However, the judge granted bail and that's important.

"They're pleased also that he is able to go home and continue his trauma and bereavement counselling. He is going to be surrounded by his loved ones and his family, who will support him."

Dewani is expected to be released from London's Wandsworth prison later today, subject to stringent bail conditions and £250,000 surety.

Mrs Dewani was found dead in the back of an abandoned taxi in a Cape Town township with a single bullet wound to her neck on November 13.

The South African authorities had appealed to the High Court against a decision earlier this week by a judge at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court to grant bail.

Their lawyers argued there were substantial grounds for suspecting Dewani would not surrender for an extradition hearing later this month.

District Judge Howard Riddle said the "powerful facts" in favour of bail included Dewani's co-operation with the South African police and then the UK police as rumours started of his involvement in the death of his wife.

Today Ben Watson, appearing for the South Africans, argued that "significant new evidence" had now come to light which demonstrated there was "a very powerful case against Mr Dewani" and increased the risk of him taking flight if allowed bail.

Mr Watson told Mr Justice Ouseley this included new CCTV footage and independent evidence that Mr Dewani had obtained money on the black market, allegedly to fund the murder.

But the judge allowed bail after ruling there was "strong support" for the submission that "Dewani genuinely hopes that the investigation will clear him" and would not flee.

The judge said: "I have concluded that he has a continuing and realistic interest in making sure that he clears his name."

He has no criminal convictions, is professionally qualified and his family is of high standing in the local community in Bristol, with no obvious interest in helping him to abscond.

Because of the "tragic and terrible murder of his wife", his face is well known and it would be difficult for him to depart the UK or "go underground", said the judge.

Shrien Dewani's family later emerged from the Royal Courts of Justice and his solicitor, Andrew Katzen, read a short statement on their behalf.

He said: "We are all delighted that the courts have consistently upheld Shrien Dewani's right to bail, acknowledging his co-operation with the authorities in South Africa and in the UK, and have today refused the South African government's appeal against the granting of bail.

"We are not in a position to say anything further at this stage."

In response to today's High Court ruling, South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority said it would continue preparing extradition papers for Dewani.

"We respect the ruling and won't take the matter further," said NPA spokesman advocate Mthunzi Mhaga.

"We are still busy preparing the necessary extradition papers to submit to the Department of Justice, which is the central authority on extradition. We can't commit to timeframes."

Meanwhile, the country's Justice Minister, Jeff Radebe, dismissed any suggestion that Dewani would not get a fair trial in South Africa.

He said: "Our courts jealously uphold and enforce the Constitution, including the accused's rights.

"It is thus simply untrue to suggest that Shrien Dewani will not get a fair trial, should our extradition request to the United Kingdom (UK) succeed."

He further denied claims that South African authorities charged with the investigation and prosecution of the case may have a "sinister motive" to falsely implicate Dewani in his wife's murder.

Mr Radebe said "the presumption of innocence remains", should Dewani return to South Africa.