Thursday, January 13, 2011

DEWANI: Extradition right on track

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe confirmed on Thursday that the extradition of Shrien Dewani, accused of being the mastermind behind a simulated hijacking which saw honeymoon bride Anni Dewani being murdered in South Africa, is on track with local authorities awaiting a response from their British counterparts.

Radebe stressed on SABC radio news : "I want to emphasise that Mr Dewani, like any other South African resident or foreign national is protected under our Constitution to have a free trial and very fair trial, because in our laws we believe in the independence of the judiciary and we uphold the rule of law.

"He is presumed innocent until proven otherwise. He has a right to be represented by legal counsel and he can be able to challenge any evidence that can be used against him."

Shrien Dewani faces extradition over allegations that he orchestrated Anni's murder in a staged hijacking in Khayelitsha in November.

His involvement follows allegations made by Zola Tongo, who drove the taxi in which the couple were hijacked, in the Western Cape High Court during the reading of his plea and sentence agreement that Dewani had offered around R15,000 to kill his wife.

Dewani and his family have rejected the allegations as "totally ludicrous".

Tongo was jailed for 18 years for his part in the murder, kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances and perverting the course of justice.

Two other accused Xolile Mnguni, 23, and Mziwamadoda Qwabe, 25, are in custody awaiting trial in February.

As part of the extradition procedures Dewani was arrested at a police station in Bristol, England where he handed himself over and was released on bail with strict conditions pending an extradition hearing.

Lt-Col Mike Barkhuizen, a senior South African investigator, has reportedly flown to London to meet Scotland Yard detectives preparing the case for Dewani's extradition which is due to start on January 20.

National police Commissioner General Bheki Cele meanwhile, who was criticised by legal experts and MPs for referring to Dewani as a "monkey who came from London to have his wife murdered" jokingly made reference to his faux pas on Wednesday while handing new vehicles to police officers.

"I am sure there are a few - I almost said apes - bad apples who taint the name of thousands of hard working policemen," Beeld newspaper quoted Cele as saying.

"I am sure I can call someone from here an ape. But it was a crime when I called someone from London an ape."

Eyewitness News are reporting that a private investigator, employed in the murder of Eastern Cape doctor Pox Raghavjee, has confirmed that he is close to solving the case.

According to Investigator Christian Botha there is no evidence to suggest a link between the Dewani and Raghavjee murders.