Friday, January 21, 2011

‘Sick’ Dewani’s bail strategy

A psychiatric report judged Shrien Dewani unfit to attend court yesterday and he was excused by the presiding officer.
As the battle kicked off to have honeymoon murder suspect Shrien Dewani face charges in South Africa, an apparent strategy to grant him bail in South Africa was building.

A psychiatrist has found Dewani to be suffering from “acute stress disorder” and “oppressive adjustment disorder” - reasons put before court why he could not appear on Thursday.

Once the court proceedings were over, grim-faced friends and family of Anni and Shrien were photographed exiting the court. The postponement came as celebrity publicist Max Clifford - appointed by Dewani shortly before he was named a suspect in the murder of his wife, Anni - has fed the media a steady stream of testimonies confirming his client’s failing health.

Commentators in London suggest this is part of a ploy to ensure Dewani gets bail should his extradition to South Africa be successful.

With South Africa’s extradition arrangement with the UK falling among a small group of privileged countries that are not required to provide prima facie evidence for the order to be granted, Dewani’s defence team face an uphill battle to keep him in the UK.

Newspapers in Dewani’s home city of Bristol say they are on suicide watch and all confirm that he is losing weight. One newspaper quoted a family friend as saying Dewani “looked like a zombie” when visited two weeks ago.

Dewani is living under curfew at his family’s lavish Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol, home.
From early morning on Thursday, the British media thronged the Westminster courthouse, eager to catch a glimpse of those involved in a case that has captured the world’s attention.
Many journalists in the packed galleries scanned the room for a glimpse of investigator Mike Barkhuizen, who has been in England since last week to cement the “watertight” case the National Prosecuting Authority is promising against Dewani.

Others sought out Dewani’s award-winning South African attorney, Taswell Papier.
Dewani is accused of orchestrating a fake hijacking in Gugulethu which would lead to the murder of his wife of two weeks, Anni.

An affidavit submitted to the Westminster court by the NPA says Dewani is wanted in South Africa to face charges of murder, kidnapping, robbery with aggravated circumstances and obstructing the course of justice.

The proceedings on Thursday were to ensure the necessary technical requirements were met. These included a certificate from the British Secretary of State, who had received the extradition application by South African authorities.

During the hearing Ben Watson, for the South African authorities, said a psychiatric report had judged Dewani unfit to attend court and he was excused by the presiding officer.

As the next hearing on February 8 is expected to be deal with further technical details concerning the extradition to be placed before the court, Dewani’s attorney, Julian Knowles, yesterday offered to present a further psychological evaluation 48 hours before the start of proceedings in the event that his client was too ill to be present.

Knowles said in light of his condition there “may be difficulties” taking instructions from his client.

Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle indicated that proceedings would continue even if Dewani could not be present.

His bail and the conditions set have been extended.

In a lighter moment, Riddle asked whether either party had objections to the media’s request to use Twitter during proceedings.

“You should have seen the press today. There’s a lot of ‘he said she said’,” said Knowles, as he objected.

“I know the media get very excited about Facebook and Twitter, but there have been all sorts of leaks and I think the time has come to put a stop to it,” added Knowles.

“Surely on the face of it, it can assist accuracy,” came Riddle’s light-hearted reply.

“In 140 characters?” was Knowles’s retort, before accepting there was no keeping Twitter out of the courtroom.

Dewani, who has indicated before that he would fight attempts to extradite him, has hired one of South Africa’s top lawyers, Papier, to give last-minute support in his fight. Papier also represented football manager Alex Ferguson when he faced accusations of sexual assault in Cape Town in 2002.

Papier’s spokesman said: “It all happened very suddenly. Mr Papier is extremely busy with the case. We’re still waiting to hear from him regarding his specific role.”

Papier, who has years of experience with violent township crimes, is expected to add invaluable local knowledge to Dewani’s defence. - Pretoria News