Johannesburg: South Africa has assured UK-based Indian-origin businessman Shrien Dewani of a fair trial if he returns to the country to face the law for allegedly masterminding the brutal murder of his wife while on honeymoon in Cape Town in 2010.
"We welcome the judgement as it evidently reaffirms our strong view that the SA legal system is internationally recognised as fair and one that upholds the rule of law," South African Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said in a statement after yesterday's ruling by the Westminster Magistrates' Court in the UK that Dewani must be extradited to South Africa.
"We are also pleased that at last Mr Dewani will stand trial for the alleged murder that induced a sense of shock and outrage nationally as well as around the world. We guarantee him and the entire world that he will indeed receive a fair trial as the South African justice system is one that recognises basic human rights as enshrined in our constitution," Radebe said.
"We also welcome the confidence expressed by the Chief Magistrate in South Africa's ability, and that of Valkenberg Hospital in particular, to care for and treat Mr Dewani," Radebe said. Dewani has been in psychiatric care since his return to London at the time his wife was killed by three contract killers allegedly hired by him.
They have already been tried and sentenced. But Radebe also pointed out that the favourable ruling did not mean that Dewani's return to South Africa is imminent. "He has further legal remedies available to him, including applying to the Administrative Court for a certificate on a point of law of general public importance. Mr Dewani has fourteen days within which he must apply for this certificate. Should he choose not to apply for a certificate he must be extradited to South Africa within 28 days of the expiration of the fourteen days," the minister explained.
Dewani's legal team has already announced his intention to apply for this certificate in the latest step of a long battle to avoid being extradited. Dewani has cited the risk to his life from being kept in prisons in South Africa which he claimed were very dangerous.
He earlier claimed that he would be treated unfairly in South Africa. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) also welcomed the ruling. "The NPA's view, from the onset, has been that the interests of justice require that he be returned to South Africa to stand trial. Today's judgement reaffirms that view and is therefore an important milestone in achieving this objective," said NPA Regional Communications Manager Eric Ntabazalila.