Honeymoon murder: Dewani extradition halted
Extradition of Shrien Dewani to South Africa halted temporarily on mental health grounds
SHRIEN DEWANI will not be extradited to South Africa to stand trial for the murder of his wife – for the moment. The High Court temporarily halted the extradition this morning on mental health grounds.
The judges said that it would be "unjust and oppressive" to order Dewani's extradition in his current condition, highlighting his "unfitness to plead, the risk of a deterioration in his condition and the increased prospects of a speedier recovery if he remains in Britain".
Sir John Thomas, President of the Queen's Bench Division, said that the risk of suicide was also a factor. However, the stay of extradition is only temporary and the judge ruled that "it is plainly in the interests of justice that [Dewani] be tried in South Africa as soon as he is fit to be tried".
The Home Secretary Theresa May had already signed the paperwork for the Bristol businessman's extradition following a Belmarsh Magistrates' Court ruling in August that he should be sent to South Africa for trial. But at a High Court hearing in December, Dewani's lawyers argued that he is too ill to be extradited and is a suicide risk, The Daily Telegraph reports.
South African prosecutors accuse Dewani of masterminding the murder of his wife Anni while on their honeymoon in Cape Town in November 2010.
The couple were carjacked as they drove through the township of Gugulethu in a taxi. Shrien and the driver, Zola Tongo, were ejected from the car, while the two perpetrators drove off with Anni. Her body was found in the car the next day with a gunshot to her neck.
Prosecutors allege that Dewani paid Tongo to arrange the murder.
Clare Montgomery QC, for Dewani, argued in the High Court in December that her client was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and had been since before he was accused of his wife's murder. She said that Dewani would be too ill to give instructions to his lawyer and extradition should be discharged or delayed until her client had recovered.
Meanwhile, a former acting High Court judge in South Africa has told the BBC that Dewani could serve his sentence in Bristol Prison if is extradited to South Africa and found guilty. Paul Hoffman said it would be an unusual arrangement, but it was possible the UK and South African government could strike a deal.
A UK Ministry of Justice spokesman said there is currently no prisoner transfer agreement with South Africa, but "we hope to get more agreements with other countries and one of them may be South Africa".