Accessibility links

Extradition Hearing Postponed for British Man Accused of Murder in South Africa

Businessman Shrien Dewani (rear) is led to a prison van by a warder at Westminster Magistrates court in central London (file)

Businessman Shrien Dewani (rear) is led to a prison van by a warder at Westminster Magistrates court in central London (file)

A British man accused of ordering the murder of his wife in South Africa failed to turn up for a court hearing in London on Monday because of an acute stress disorder. South African prosecutors want to extradite Shrien Dewani to South Africa.

Dewani and his wife Anni were on their honeymoon in Cape Town when their car was apparently high jacked and Anni Dewani shot dead.

But the driver of the car has since admitted taking part in the killing and has been jailed for 18 years.

During his trial he implicated Dewani in the murder. Prosecutors say Dewani paid the driver over $2,000 to have hitmen kill his wife.

The British citizen was allowed to leave South Africa but now investigators want him to return for trial. Dewani, who says he is innocent, is fighting extradition. His lawyers say they fear he won’t have a fair trial in South Africa.

Anton du Plessis heads the International Crime in Africa Program at the Institute for Security Studies in Johannesburg:

He says there are problems with Africa’s legal system. "Like many developing countries South Africa's criminal justice system and prison system are most definitely not perfect,” du Plessis explains. “And our officials and our oversight authorities are the first to highlight that there are problems."

But he says he thinks Dewani is unlikely to win his battle against extradition. "It would be very difficult for a country like South Africa whose judicial processes and judicial decisions are highly respected in the UK, for anyone to show that there is a substantial risk that he would not receive a fair trial," du Plessis stated.

Human rights groups have in the past highlighted worrying conditions at South Africa’s prisons. Amnesty International has reported torture of detainees by police and sexual violence.

Du Plessis says South Africa’s prison system will also be used by Dewani as an argument against extradition.

"On the question of our prison conditions, I think that's probably the stronger argument because we do have problem with overcrowding and I think the easiest way around that is just for the South African authorities, which I think they probably have done already, to give assurances to the accused and to his legal team that if he were to be extradited that certain privileges would be granted to him in terms of his detention pending trial and possibly even that once, if he was convicted, that he might even be able to serve his sentence back in the UK," du Plessis said.

Dewani’s next hearing will be on February 8. The court heard Thursday that Dewani is suffering from an acute stress disorder and a depressive adjustment disorder. The judge said he would review whether Dewani needs to attend the next hearing.