UK gov't orders extradition over honeymoon death

AP News
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Posted: Sep 28, 2011 12:24 PM
UK gov't orders extradition over honeymoon death

Britain's government said Wednesday that a suspect accused of hiring a hit man to kill his wife on their honeymoon in South Africa should be extradited there to face trial.

Home Secretary Theresa May approved the extradition of 31-year-old Shrien Dewani following a court ruling last month.

Dewani, a British businessman, is alleged to have paid others to arrange and carry out the murder of his 28-year-old wife, Anni, who was found shot dead in an abandoned taxi in Cape Town's deprived Gugulethu township in November.

The couple, both of Indian descent, had married in India two weeks before arriving in South Africa.

May signed an order for the extradition after she "carefully considered all relevant matters," the Home Office said in a statement.

Dewani, who denies any involvement in his wife's death, has 14 days to appeal the decision.

Dewani claims that the couple's vehicle was attacked by gunmen during a township tour. However, taxi driver Zola Tongo alleged in a confession last year that Dewani had offered him 15,000 rand (about $2,100) to arrange the murder and make it appear like a carjacking.

Tongo has been convicted in South Africa of kidnapping, murder, aggravated robbery and obstructing justice, and was sentenced to 18 years in prison. He is expected to testify against Dewani as part of a plea bargain.

Though British courts hear arguments in extradition cases and issue a ruling, it is the government's top law enforcement minister who must give final approval.

Last month, Judge Howard Riddle advised following lengthy court hearings that Dewani should go to South Africa to face the allegations against him.

South African Justice Ministry spokesman Tlali Tlali insisted that Dewani would receive a fair trial.

"We have always indicated that should our extradition application succeed, Mr. Dewani will enjoy the full rights of any accused person .... That includes the right to a fair trial," Tlali said.

He said South Africa has pursued Dewani's extradition not because his guilt is presumed, but because authorities there believe that "he has a case to answer to."

Riddle said last month that he had "no doubt" that Dewani was experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, but claimed that he was satisfied South African authorities would offer the suspect appropriate care.

Tlali said that South Africa was awaiting news of whether the suspect intends to appeal.

"It is a matter that is subject to the United Kingdom legal system," he said. "It is something that we will respect."

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Donna Bryson in Johannesburg contributed to this report.