Minister is Dewani's last hope as judge backs extradition

His defence team said he was mentally unfit to stand trial and would face violent sexual assault in prison

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The Independent Online

Shrien Dewani's fight to evade facing justice in South Africa appeared doomed yesterday as a judge recommended that he be extradited to stand trial for murdering his bride.

Despite assertions by his defence team that he was mentally unfit to stand trial and would face violent sexual assault and the risk of HIV infection in prison, Senior District Judge Howard Riddle said he had full confidence in the South African system and sent the case to Damian Green, the immigration minister, for a decision.

Mr Green will have two months to hear further arguments from the defence before making a decision though he is unlikely to go against the judge's recommendation without specific extenuating circumstances.

Anni Dewani's family appeared overjoyed as they left Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in Woolwich, south-east London. Her sister Ami Denborg, 31, said: "Nothing will bring Anni back, my beautiful, innocent little sister... She will not rest in peace until this is over. It has been a nightmare. Today we feel very happy about this decision and we feel it is a step in the right direction."

Ending his two-hour judgment, Judge Riddle said: "Against the argument put forward on his behalf the court must consider the strong public interest in honouring our extradition treaties."

Praising the victim's family for their "quiet dignity", he continued: "The court should not overlook their right to have the factual position determined as soon as is reasonable... Either Mr Dewani arranged for his new bride to be brutally murdered, or he has been the victim himself of the most terrible tragedy. I have complete confidence in the South African judicial system to provide a fair trial."

Passively staring ahead in the dock, Mr Dewani betrayed no emotion. The bearded 31-year-old bore little resemblance to the joyful groom seen in wedding pictures after Anni, 28, was murdered on their honeymoon in Cape Town. The couple, from Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol, had been married just two weeks when they were held at gunpoint on the night of 13 November after taking a taxi through the township of Gugulethu to see some of "the real Africa".

The driver, Zola Tongo, and the groom were forced from the car unharmed. Mrs Dewani's body was discovered the next day in the abandoned car in another township on the outskirts of Cape Town. The Swedish-born engineer had a single bullet wound to the neck.

Mr Dewani has consistently denied hiring the killers, but the South African authorities want him extradited to stand trial for murder, kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances, conspiracy to commit murder and obstructing the administration of justice. His legal team said last night they would be considering whether to appeal.