Swedish bride slaying trial to start in July

Two alleged South African hitmen will go on trial on July 30th in the killing of honeymooner Anni Dewani, even if her British husband has not yet been extradited to stand trial with them, a judge said Friday.

Swedish bride slaying trial to start in July

“This matter is now ready to finally start on July 30,” Judge Andre le Grange said.

Xolile Mngeni and Mziwamadoda Qwabe are accused of killing Swedish-born Anni Dewani in November 2010 in a murder set up to look like a botched hijacking.

On March 30, Britain’s High Court temporarily halted the extradition to South Africa of the victim’s husband, Shrien Dewani, citing mental health grounds.

Dewani is suspected of masterminding the killing, but has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Lawyers for the two accused men said they would plead not guilty.

Mngeni underwent surgery to remove a brain tumour last year and looked

gaunt as he appeared with Qwabe on Friday.

Mngeni is set to undergo further medical tests over coming week, which could cause a new delay to the trial, his lawyer Qalisile Dayimani said.

Dayimani told AFP that his client was struggling to eat and that his prognosis was poor, although his most recent medical report indicated he was fit to stand.

Both men are being held in custody pending trial.

British high court judges have said that it was in the interests of justice that Dewani, who is being treated in a mental health hospital in Bristol, be extradited to face trial “as soon as he is fit”.

Dewani has strongly denied arranging the contract killing of his 28-year-old wife, who was shot dead in an apparent carjacking as the couple drove through a township in Cape Town.

But their taxi driver, Zola Tongo, who was jailed for 18 years for his part in the crime, claimed in a plea bargain that the businessman paid for a hit on his wife.

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Swedish bride murder suspect’s health worsens

A British man wanted in South Africa in connection with the murder of his Swedish wife, who was killed while the couple were on their honeymoon, has suffered a relapse in mental health problems, a court heard on Wednesday.

Swedish bride murder suspect's health worsens

Shrien Dewani, 33, is being treated at a hospital for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder but his lawyer said last month his condition had “improved significantly”.

Dewani’s 28-year-old Swedish-born wife Anni was shot dead when a taxi the couple were travelling in was hijacked in a township on the outskirts of Cape Town in November 2010.

Clare Montgomery, a lawyer for Dewani, told Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London that after he suffered a bad reaction, doctors had taken Dewani off the anti-anxiety medication which was most effective in treating his condition.

“We may have taken one step back having taken two steps forward,” she said.

Despite the setback, the court heard that a full extradition hearing is still expected to start on July 1st.

In view of Dewani’s condition, he has been sectioned for a further 12 months under mental health laws.

The businessman faces charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances and obstructing the administration of justice. He denies all the charges.

It emerged on Wednesday that the defence made proposals last month for Dewani to make a voluntary return to South Africa, although the details of the offer were not discussed in court.

Under the South African government’s current plans, if Dewani is extradited his mental health will be assessed when he arrives in the country.

If he is considered at risk, he will be taken to the psychiatric unit at Valkenberg pyschiatric hospital in Cape Town, before being sent to the city’s Goodwood prison.

Hugo Keith, representing the South African authorities, told the court they were happy for a defence expert to visit Valkenberg to assess its suitability.

He said he would need to take instructions on whether a similar inspection of Goodwood was possible.

Keith argued that the South African authorities would “trip over their corporate toes” to make sure that Dewani receives the right psychiatric support if he is extradited.

Chief magistrate Howard Riddle rejected a request from the defence to put back the full extradition hearing so a specific expert could visit Valkenberg in August.

“I am very, very reluctant to delay this case any further,” he said.

AFP/The Local/dl

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